Reward sensitivity is associated with brain activity during erotic stimulus processing

PLoS One. 2013 Jun 28;8(6):e66940. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0066940. Print 2013.


The behavioral approach system (BAS) from Gray's reinforcement sensitivity theory is a neurobehavioral system involved in the processing of rewarding stimuli that has been related to dopaminergic brain areas. Gray's theory hypothesizes that the functioning of reward brain areas is modulated by BAS-related traits. To test this hypothesis, we performed an fMRI study where participants viewed erotic and neutral pictures, and cues that predicted their appearance. Forty-five heterosexual men completed the Sensitivity to Reward scale (from the Sensitivity to Punishment and Sensitivity to Reward Questionnaire) to measure BAS-related traits. Results showed that Sensitivity to Reward scores correlated positively with brain activity during reactivity to erotic pictures in the left orbitofrontal cortex, left insula, and right ventral striatum. These results demonstrated a relationship between the BAS and reward sensitivity during the processing of erotic stimuli, filling the gap of previous reports that identified the dopaminergic system as a neural substrate for the BAS during the processing of other rewarding stimuli such as money and food.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arousal*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Erotica
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reward*
  • Young Adult

Grant support

This research was supported by the Brainglot project of the CONSOLIDER-INGENIO 2010 Programme (CSD2007-00012). Also, the project was supported by grants PSI2010-20168 from MINECO, P1•1B2011-09 from Universitat Jaume I and FEPAD to CA, and grants 4623/2011 from Spanish National Drug Strategy Ministerio de Sanidad y Consumo, GV/2012/042 from the GeneralitatValenciana and P1-1A2010-01 from Universitat Jaume I to ABL. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.