Positive mood enhances reward-related neural activity

Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2016 Jun;11(6):934-44. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsw012. Epub 2016 Feb 1.


Although behavioral research has shown that positive mood leads to desired outcomes in nearly every major life domain, no studies have directly examined the effects of positive mood on the neural processes underlying reward-related affect and goal-directed behavior. To address this gap, participants in the present fMRI study experienced either a positive (n = 20) or neutral (n = 20) mood induction and subsequently completed a monetary incentive delay task that assessed reward and loss processing. Consistent with prediction, positive mood elevated activity specifically during reward anticipation in corticostriatal neural regions that have been implicated in reward processing and goal-directed behavior, including the nucleus accumbens, caudate, lateral orbitofrontal cortex and putamen, as well as related paralimbic regions, including the anterior insula and ventromedial prefrontal cortex. These effects were not observed during reward outcome, loss anticipation or loss outcome. Critically, this is the first study to report that positive mood enhances reward-related neural activity. Our findings have implications for uncovering the neural mechanisms by which positive mood enhances goal-directed behavior, understanding the malleability of reward-related neural activity, and developing targeted treatments for psychiatric disorders characterized by deficits in reward processing.

Keywords: corticostriatal circuit; mood induction; nucleus accumbens; positive mood; reward.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Corpus Striatum / physiology*
  • Female
  • Goals*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Reward*
  • Young Adult