Imaging human reward processing with positron emission tomography and functional magnetic resonance imaging

Nina B.L. Urban, Mark Slifstein, Shashwath Meda, Xiaoyan Xu, Rawad Ayoub, Olga Medina, Godfrey D. Pearlson, John H. Krystal, Anissa Abi-Dargham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Functional neuroimaging (fMRI) studies show activation in mesolimbic circuitry in tasks involving reward processing, like the Monetary Incentive Delay Task (MIDT). In voltammetry studies in animals, mesolimbic dopamine release is associated with reward salience. This study examined the relationship between fMRI activation and magnitude of dopamine release measured with Positron emission tomography study (PET) in the same subjects using MIDT in both modalities to test if fMRI activation is related to dopamine release. Eighteen healthy subjects were scanned with [11 C]raclopride PET at baseline and after MIDT. Binding potential (BPND) was derived by equilibrium analysis in striatal subregions and percent change across conditions (ΔBPND) was measured. Blood oxygen level dependence (BOLD) signal changes with MIDT were measured during fMRI using voxelwise analysis and ROI analysis and correlated with ΔBPND. ΔBPND was not significant in the ventral striatum (VST) but reached significance in the posterior caudate. The fMRI BOLD activation was highest in VST. No significant associations between ΔBPND and change in fMRI BOLD were observed with VST using ROI analysis. Voxelwise analysis showed positive correlation between BOLD activation in anticipation of the highest reward and ΔBPND in VST and precommissural putamen. Our study indicates that endogenous dopamine release in VST is of small magnitude and is related to BOLD signal change during performance of the MIDT in only a few voxels when rewarding and nonrewarding conditions are interspersed. The lack of correlation at the ROI level may be due to the small magnitude of release or to the particular dependence of BOLD on glutamatergic signaling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-77
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Dopamine
  • Human reward processing
  • MIDT
  • PET
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


Dive into the research topics of 'Imaging human reward processing with positron emission tomography and functional magnetic resonance imaging'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this