QS Study

Reward Center of the Brain

Major reward center – lateral and ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus. The mesolimbic dopamine pathway is thought to play a main role in the reward system. One pathway vital to understanding the effects of drugs on the brain is called the reward pathway. The reward pathway involves several parts of the brain, some of which are highlighted in this image: the ventral tegmental area (VTA), the nucleus accumbens, and the prefrontal cortex.

Fig: Reward Center of the Brain

Less potent reward centers:

Found in –

  • The septum,
  • The amygdala,
  • Certain areas of the thalamus and basal ganglia,
  • And extending downward into the basal tegmentum of the mesencephalon.

When exposed to a rewarding stimulus, the brain responds by increasing the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine and thus the structures associated with the reward system are found along the major dopamine pathways in the brain.

Functions of reward centers

  • Weaker stimuli to these areas cause a sense of rewards, pleases or satisfies.
  • Stronger stimuli cause filling with punishment