Reward: From basic reinforcers to anticipation of social cues


Reward processing plays a major role in goal-directed behavior and motivation. On the neural level, it is mediated by a complex network of brain structures called the dopaminergic reward system. In the last decade, neuroscientific researchers have become increasingly interested in aspects of social interaction that are experienced as rewarding. Recent neuroimaging studies have provided evidence that the reward system mediates the processing of social stimuli in a manner analogous to nonsocial rewards and thus motivates social behavior. In this context, the neuropeptide oxytocin is assumed to play a key role by activating dopaminergic reward pathways in response to social cues, inducing the rewarding quality of social interactions. Alterations in the dopaminergic reward system have been found in several psychiatric disorders that are accompanied by social interaction and motivation problems, for example autism, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, addiction disorders, and schizophrenia.


Reward: From Basic Reinforcers to Anticipation of Social Cues. Rademacher L, Schulte-Rüther M, Hanewald B, Lammertz S. Curr Top Behav Neurosci. 2017;30:207-221. doi: 10.1007/7854_2015_429. Review.

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