Stress and the dopaminergic reward system

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93 Citations (Scopus)


Dopamine regulates reward-related behavior through the mesolimbic dopaminergic pathway. Stress affects dopamine levels and dopaminergic neuronal activity in the mesolimbic dopamine system. Changes in mesolimbic dopaminergic neurotransmission are important for coping with stress, as they allow adaption to behavioral responses to various environmental stimuli. Upon stress exposure, modulation of the dopaminergic reward system is necessary for monitoring and selecting the optimal process for coping with stressful situations. Aversive stressful events may negatively regulate the dopaminergic reward system, perturbing reward sensitivity, which is closely associated with chronic stress-induced depression. The mesolimbic dopamine system is excited not only by reward but also by aversive stressful stimuli, which adds further intriguing complexity to the relationship between stress and the reward system. This review focuses on lines of evidence related to how stress, especially chronic stress, affects the mesolimbic dopamine system, and discusses the role of the dopaminergic reward system in chronic stress-induced depression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1879-1890
Number of pages12
JournalExperimental and Molecular Medicine
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Dec

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Bio & Medical Technology Development Program (grant nos. 2013M3A9D5072550 and 2016M3A9D5A01952412), the Mid-Career Researcher Program (grant nos. NRF-2017R1A2B4008875 and NRF-2020R1A2C2101010), and the Science Research Center (grant no: 2015R1A5A1009024) from the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) by the Ministry of Science, ICT & Future Planning and a Korea University grant.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, The Author(s).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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