Positive mood enhances reward-related neural activity

Christina B. Young*, Robin Nusslock

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


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 1/4 20) or neutral (n 1/4 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 goaldirected behavior, understanding the malleability of reward-related neural activity, and developing targeted treatments forpsychiatric disorders characterized by deficits in reward processing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)934-944
Number of pages11
JournalSocial cognitive and affective neuroscience
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016


  • Corticostriatal circuit
  • Mood induction
  • Nucleus accumbens
  • Positive mood
  • Reward

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Positive mood enhances reward-related neural activity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this