Neurobiological basis of motivational deficits in psychopathology

Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2015 Aug;25(8):1225-38. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2014.08.014. Epub 2014 Sep 1.


In recent years, there has been increasing emphasis on the importance of motivational symptoms in depression, schizophrenia and other disorders. The present review discusses the conceptual background related to the construct of motivation, and provides a framework that for research on both physiological and pathological aspects of motivation. Particular emphasis is placed on what is known about the neurobiological basis of activational aspects of motivation, including studies from animal models. The role of limbic/prefrontal/striatal circuitry in behavioral activation and effort-related functions is examined, and the utility of behavioral tasks of effort-based decision making as models of motivational symptoms is discussed. We also review the neurobiology of motivational symptoms in relation to psychopathology, and issues related to the language used to characterize motivational dysfunctions are considered. The literature suggests that research on the neurobiology of motivational dysfunction in psychopathology, at both clinical and preclinical levels, could inform the development of novel and more effective treatments for a range of CNS disorders.

Keywords: Anticipation; Behavioural activation; Effort-based choice; Motivation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Motivation / physiology*