Event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging of reward-related brain circuitry in children and adolescents

J. Christopher May, Mauricio R. Delgado, Ronald E. Dahl, V. Andrew Stenger, Neal D. Ryan, Julie A. Fiez, Cameron S Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

158 Scopus citations


Background: Functional disturbances in reward-related brain systems are thought to play a role in the development of mood, impulse, and substance-abuse disorders. Studies in nonhuman primates have identified brain regions, including the dorsal/ventral striatum and orbital-frontal cortex, in which neural activity is modulated by reward. Recent studies in adults have concurred with these findings by observing reward-contingent blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) responses in these regions during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) paradigms; however, no previous studies indicate whether comparable modulations of neural activity exist in the brain reward systems of children and adolescents. Methods: We used event-related fMRI and a behavioral paradigm modeled on previous work in adults to study brain responses to monetary gains and losses in psychiatrically healthy children and adolescents as part of a program examining the neural substrates of anxiety and depression in youth. Results: Regions and time-courses of reward-related activity were similar to those observed in adults with condition-dependent BOLD changes in the ventral striatum and lateral and medial orbital-frontal cortex; specifically, these regions showed larger responses to positive than to negative feedback. Conclusions: These results provide further evidence for the value of event-related fMRI in examining reward systems of the brain, demonstrate the feasibility of this approach in children and adolescents, and establish a baseline from which to understand the pathophysiology of reward-related psychiatric disorders in youth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)359-366
Number of pages8
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 15 2004


  • Adolescents
  • Children
  • Development
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • Mood disorders
  • Orbital-frontal cortex
  • Reward
  • Striatum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry


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