Money and power or sex and food – how does brain balance these?

News from science daily – A team of researchers headed by Jean-Claude Dreher of the Centre de Neuroscience Cognitive in Lyon (Cognitive Neuroscience Center, CNRS/Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1) has provided the first evidence that the orbitofrontal cortex (located in the anterior ventral part of the brain) contains distinct regions that respond to secondary rewards like money as well as more primary gratifications like erotic images. These findings, published in The Journal of Neuroscience open new perspectives in the understanding of certain pathologies, such as gambling addiction, and the study of the neural networks involved in motivation and learning.

The experiment showed that the rewards are indeed evaluated in partially shared cerebral regions, namely the ventral striatum, insula, mesencephalon and anterior cingulate cortex. The researchers have also confirmed that there is a dissociation between primary and secondary rewards in the orbitofrontal cortex. Its posterior region (more primitive) is specifically stimulated by erotic images (a primary reward), while its anterior region (which is more recent in man) is activated by monetary gain (a secondary reward). The more abstract and complex the reward, the more its representation stimulates the anterior regions of the orbitofrontal cortex.

These results provide the first evidence of a dissociation in the brain between two types of reward, suggesting the existence of distinct regions corresponding to various gratifications.

This image illustrates the dissociation between primary and secondary rewards in the orbitofrontal cortex, a frontal region of the brain that is known to play a role in the evaluation of gratification. The more primitive region (in the back, shown in yellow) represents the value of erotic images shown to the participants, while the most recent region (in the front, in blue) represents the value of monetary prizes won by the volunteers in the experiment. (Credit: Copyright Sescousse / Dreher)

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