Aversive stimuli and loss in the mesocorticolimbic dopamine system

Trends Cogn Sci. 2013 Jun;17(6):281-6. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2013.04.001. Epub 2013 Apr 24.


There is mounting evidence that the mesolimbic dopamine system carries valuation signals not only for appetitive or gain-related stimuli, with which it is traditionally associated, but also for aversive and loss-related stimuli. Cellular-level studies demonstrate that the neuronal architecture to support aversive stimuli encoding in this system does exist. Both cellular-level and human neuroimaging research suggest the co-existence of appetitive and aversive prediction-error signals within the mesocorticolimbic system. These findings shift the view of the mesocorticolimbic system as a singular pathway for reward to a system with multiple signals across a wide range of domains that drive value-based decision making.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetitive Behavior
  • Avoidance Learning / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Decision Making
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Limbic System / cytology
  • Limbic System / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Reward*


  • Dopamine