Appetitive conditioning: Neural bases and implications for psychopathology

C. Martin-Soelch, J. Linthicum, M. Ernst

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


Appetitive conditioning is the process through which new rewards are learned and acquire their motivational salience. Although it has the same evolutionary survival significance as aversive conditioning, appetitive conditioning has rarely been studied in humans. This gap may be explained by the difficulty to find in humans suitable appetitive stimuli that can elicit physiological responses similar to those elicited by aversive stimuli. To help remedy this gap, we review the literature on conditioning, with emphasis on appetitive conditioning. This review comprises three parts. First, we examine the different forms of conditioning. Second, we review the neural basis of appetitive conditioning, particularly from a functional neuroimaging perspective. And third, we demonstrate how perturbations in processes involved in appetitive conditioning can contribute to implicated psychopathologies and suggest neurobiological models underlying these pathologies. The ultimate goal of this review is to stimulate new avenues of research that have direct links to molecular biology, and thus could prove to be invaluable to progress in the understanding and treatment of psychiatric disabilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)426-440
Number of pages15
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Amygdala
  • Anterior cingulate
  • Cognition
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Functional imaging
  • Learning
  • Orbitofrontal cortex
  • Reward
  • Striatum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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