Disruption of Reward Processing in Addiction : An Image-Based Meta-analysis of Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Studies

    loading  Checking for direct PDF access through Ovid



Disrupted reward processing, mainly driven by striatal dysfunction, is a key characteristic of addictive behaviors. However, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have reported conflicting results, with both hypoactivations and hyperactivations during anticipation and outcome notification of monetary rewards in addiction.


To determine the nature and direction of reward-processing disruptions during anticipation and outcome notification of monetary rewards in individuals with addiction using image-based meta-analyses of fMRI studies.

Data Sources

Relevant publications were identified searching PubMed (inclusion until March 2015) using the following terms: reward, fMRI, substance use, cocaine, cannabis, opiates, alcohol, nicotine, smokers, gambling, gamblers, gaming, and gamers. Authors of included articles were contacted to obtain statistical fMRI maps.

Study Selection

Inclusion criteria: reward task involving monetary reward anticipation and/or outcome; participants showing addictive behaviors; and healthy control group. Exclusion criteria: participants aged younger than 18 years; recreational substance use or gambling; participants at risk for addictive behaviors; and studies using the same patient data as other included studies.

Data Extraction and Synthesis

Study procedures were conducted in accordance with the Meta-analysis of Observational Studies in Epidemiology guidelines. Using Seed-based d Mapping software, meta-analyses were performed using random-effect nonparametric statistics with group whole brain T-maps from individual studies as input. Analyses were performed across all addictions and for substance and gambling addictions separately.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Group differences (individuals with addiction vs control individuals) in reward-related brain activation during reward anticipation and outcome using fMRI (planned before data collection).


Twenty-five studies were included in the meta-analysis, representing 643 individuals with addictive behaviors and 609 healthy control individuals. During reward anticipation, individuals with substance and gambling addictions showed decreased striatal activation compared with healthy control individuals. During reward outcome, individuals with substance addiction showed increased activation in the ventral striatum, whereas individuals with gambling addiction showed decreased activation in the dorsal striatum compared with healthy control individuals.

Conclusions and Relevance

Striatal hypoactivation in individuals with addiction during reward anticipation and in individuals with gambling addiction during reward outcome is in line with the reward-deficiency theory of addiction. However, the combination of hypoactivation during reward anticipation and hyperactivation during reward outcome in the striatum of individuals with substance addiction may be explained using learning-deficit theory.

Related Topics

    loading  Loading Related Articles