The Emotional Reward Pathway

Experimental studies designed to localize specific circuits and identify underlying cellular mechanisms responsible for emotional perception and emotionally driven behavior are particularly challenging. By comparison, sensory and motor pathways are much more amenable to standard techniques of experimental examination. One obvious problem is that the emotional state of experimental animals is difficult to assess. One type of animal behavior experiment has shown that rats will repeatedly self-stimulate electrodes implanted in the brain only when they are placed in certain areas, suggesting the presence of pleasure centers within these regions.

Another source of information that has provided considerable insight into the brain mechanisms of emotion is data gained from patients who require surgical removal of specific brain areas that act as trigger zones for severe

A. Anatomical locations of the Papez circuit components and other limbic structures

A. Anatomical locations of the Papez circuit components and other limbic structures

B. Flow diagram of the Papez circuit (blue) and other limbic structures (gray)

A. Coronal section through the hypothalamus and amygdala

B. Flow of information in aggression

hypothalamus amygdala

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