Illuminating anhedonia

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Science  01 Jan 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6268, pp. 24-25
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad9698

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The mesolimbic dopamine (DA) system is part of the brain's reward circuitry (see the figure). It controls an individual's responses to rewards such as food, social interactions, and money, and is therefore an important determinant of motivation. Midbrain DA neurons projecting to the striatum are causally involved in reward-like processes. Less clear is how another apparent target of midbrain DA neurons, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), may contribute to the reward system. On page 41 of this issue, Ferenczi et al. (1) report using a unique combination of optogenetic tools and functional magnetic resonance brain imaging (fMRI) in conscious rats to investigate the underlying mechanisms of the competitive relationships of these two brain regions over striatal function and reward-like behavior. The findings have implications for understanding and treating affective symptoms in disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, and addiction.