Ghrelin, reward and motivation

Endocr Dev. 2013;25:101-11. doi: 10.1159/000346058. Epub 2013 Apr 25.


Almost all circulating gut peptides contribute to the control of food intake by signalling satiety. One important exception is ghrelin, the only orexigenic peptide hormone thus far described. Ghrelin secretion increases before meals and behavioural and electrophysiological evidence shows that ghrelin acts in the hypothalamus via homeostatic pathways to signal hunger and increase food intake and adiposity. These findings strongly suggest that ghrelin is a dynamically regulated peripheral hunger signal. However, ghrelin also interacts with the brain reward pathways to increase food intake, alter food preference and enhance food reward. Here we discuss ghrelin's role as an endocrine gut-brain reward signal in relation to homeostatic and hedonic feeding control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / physiology
  • Eating / physiology
  • Ghrelin / pharmacology
  • Ghrelin / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Motivation / drug effects
  • Motivation / physiology*
  • Reward*
  • Sex


  • Ghrelin