Reward processing is a fundamental human activity. The basal ganglia are recognized for their role in reward processes; however, specific roles of the different nuclei (e.g., nucleus accumbens, caudate, putamen and globus pallidus) remain unclear. Using quantitative meta-analyses we assessed whole-brain and basal ganglia specific contributions to money, erotic, and food reward processing. We analyzed data from 190 fMRI studies which reported stereotaxic coordinates of whole-brain, within-group results from healthy adult participants. Results showed concordance in overlapping and distinct cortical and sub-cortical brain regions as a function of reward type. Common to all reward types was concordance in basal ganglia nuclei, with distinct differences in hemispheric dominance and spatial extent in response to the different reward types. Food reward processing favored the right hemisphere; erotic rewards favored the right lateral globus pallidus and left caudate body. Money rewards engaged the basal ganglia bilaterally including its most anterior part, nucleus accumbens. We conclude by proposing a model of common reward processing in the basal ganglia and separate models for money, erotic, and food rewards.
Keywords: Basal ganglia; Meta-analyses; Rewards; Striatum; fMRI.