Dissociation of neural regions associated with anticipatory versus consummatory phases of incentive processing


  • This work was supported by NIMH grant R01 MH68376 to D.A.P. The authors gratefully acknowledge James O'Shea for his technical assistance, as well as Dr. Thilo Deckersbach and Dr. Darin Dougherty for their support in initial phases of this study.

Address reprint requests to: Address reprint requests to: Diego A. Pizzagalli, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, Harvard University, 1220 William James Hall, 33 Kirkland Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA. E-mail: dap@wjh.harvard.edu


Incentive delay tasks implicate the striatum and medial frontal cortex in reward processing. However, prior studies delivered more rewards than penalties, possibly leading to unwanted differences in signal-to-noise ratio. Also, whether particular brain regions are specifically involved in anticipation or consumption is unclear. We used a task featuring balanced incentive delivery and an analytic strategy designed to identify activity specific to anticipation or consumption. Reaction time data in two independent samples (n=13 and n=8) confirmed motivated responding. Functional magnetic resonance imaging revealed regions activated by anticipation (anterior cingulate) versus consumption (orbital and medial frontal cortex). Ventral striatum was active during reward anticipation but not significantly more so than during consumption. Although the study features several methodological improvements and helps clarify the neural basis of incentive processing, replications in larger samples are needed.