Pleasures of the brain
Berridge KC.
Department of Psychology,
University of Michigan,
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1109, USA.
Brain Cogn. 2003 Jun;52(1):106-28.


How does the brain cause positive affective reactions to sensory pleasure? An answer to pleasure causation requires knowing not only which brain systems are activated by pleasant stimuli, but also which systems actually cause their positive affective properties. This paper focuses on brain causation of behavioral positive affective reactions to pleasant sensations, such as sweet tastes. Its goal is to understand how brain systems generate 'liking,' the core process that underlies sensory pleasure and causes positive affective reactions. Evidence suggests activity in a subcortical network involving portions of the nucleus accumbens shell, ventral pallidum, and brainstem causes 'liking' and positive affective reactions to sweet tastes. Lesions of ventral pallidum also impair normal sensory pleasure. Recent findings regarding this subcortical network's causation of core 'liking' reactions help clarify how the essence of a pleasure gloss gets added to mere sensation. The same subcortical 'liking' network, via connection to brain systems involved in explicit cognitive representations, may also in turn cause conscious experiences of sensory pleasure.
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