The brain reward circuitry in mood disorders

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2013 Sep;14(9):609-25. doi: 10.1038/nrn3381. Epub 2013 Aug 14.


Mood disorders are common and debilitating conditions characterized in part by profound deficits in reward-related behavioural domains. A recent literature has identified important structural and functional alterations within the brain's reward circuitry--particularly in the ventral tegmental area-nucleus accumbens pathway--that are associated with symptoms such as anhedonia and aberrant reward-associated perception and memory. This Review synthesizes recent data from human and rodent studies from which emerges a circuit-level framework for understanding reward deficits in depression. We also discuss some of the molecular and cellular underpinnings of this framework, ranging from adaptations in glutamatergic synapses and neurotrophic factors to transcriptional and epigenetic mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mood Disorders / pathology*
  • Mood Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Neural Pathways / cytology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Reward*