Brain stimulation reward  

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Rats will perform lever-pressing at rates of several thousand responses per hour for days in order to obtain direct electrical stimulation of the lateral hypothalamus. Multiple studies have demonstrated that rats will perform reinforced behaviors at the exclusion of all other behaviors. Experiments have shown rats to forgo food to the point of starvation in order to work for brain stimulation or intravenous cocaine when both food and stimulation are offered concurrently for a limited time each day. Rats will even cross electrified grids to press a lever, and they are willing to withstand higher levels of shock to obtain electrical stimulation than to obtain food.[1]

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Brain stimulation reward (BSR) is a phenomenon in which direct stimulation of regions of the brain through either electrical or chemical means is rewarding and can serve as an operant reinforcer. The stimulation activates the reward system and establishes response habits similar to those established by natural rewards such as food and water. BSR experiments soon demonstrated that stimulation of the lateral hypothalamus and other regions of the brain associated with natural reward was both rewarding as well as drive inducing. Electrical brain stimulation and intracranial drug injections are among the most powerful rewards because they activate the reward circuitry directly rather than through the peripheral nerves. BSR has been found in all vertebrates tested, including humans, and it has provided a useful tool for understanding how natural rewards are processed by the brain as well as the anatomical structures and the neurochemistry associated with the brain's reward system.

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