Moods as ups and downs of the motivation pendulum: Revisiting reinforcement sensitivity theory (RST) in bipolar disorder

Tal Gonen, Haggai Sharon, Godfrey Pearlson, Talma Hendler

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Scopus citations


    Motivation is a key neurobehavioral concept underlying adaptive responses to environmental incentives and threats. As such, dysregulation of motivational processes may be critical in the formation of abnormal behavioral patterns/tendencies. According to the long standing model of the Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory (RST), motivation behaviors are driven by three neurobehavioral systems mediating the sensitivity to punishment, reward or goal-conflict. Corresponding to current neurobehavioral theories in psychiatry, this theory links abnormal motivational drives to abnormal behavior; viewing depression and mania as two abnormal extremes of reward driven processes leading to either under or over approach tendencies, respectively. We revisit the RST framework in the context of bipolar disorder (BD) and challenge this concept by suggesting that dysregulated interactions of both punishment and reward related processes better account for the psychological and neural abnormalities observed in BD. We further present an integrative model positing that the three parallel motivation systems currently proposed by the RST model, can be viewed as subsystems in a large-scale neurobehavioral network of motivational decision making.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article number378
    JournalFrontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
    Issue numberNovember
    StatePublished - Nov 3 2014


    • Affectives process
    • Bipolar disorder
    • Depression
    • Functional neuroimaging
    • Motivation
    • System neuroscience

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
    • Cognitive Neuroscience
    • Behavioral Neuroscience


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