Is our self nothing but reward?

Georg Northoff, Dave J. Hayes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

144 Citations (Scopus)


Neuroscience has increasingly explored the neural mechanisms underlying our sense of self. Recent studies have demonstrated the recruitment of regions like the ventral tegmental area, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and the ventral striatum to self-specific stimuliregions typically associated with reward-related processing. This raises the question of whether there is a relationship between self and reward and, if so, how these different fields can be linked. Three relationship models that aim to explore the relationship between self and reward are discussed here: integration, segregation, and parallel processing. Their pros and cons are reviewed in light of the most recent findings. The conclusion is that both the fields of self and reward may benefit from increased interaction. This interaction may help to fill in some of the missing pieces regarding reward-related processing, as well as illuminate how brain function can bring forward the philosophical concept and psychological reality of self.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1019-1025
Number of pages7
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Animal
  • human
  • models
  • psychiatric disorders
  • reward
  • self
  • translational

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry


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