Neural Mechanisms Mediating Sex Differences in Motivation for Reward: Cognitive Bias, Food, Gambling, and Drugs of Abuse

Caitlin A. Orsini, Travis E. Brown, Travis E. Hodges, Yanaira Alonso-Caraballo, Catharine A. Winstanley, Jill B. Becker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Sex differences in motivation for food rewards, gambling, and drugs of abuse are modulated by multiple factors, including sensory stimuli, gonadal hormones, and cognitive bias. Cues, drugs of abuse, and a high-fat diet can significantly impact neural signaling in the reward system and functioning of neural systems that regulate executive functions differentially in males and females. Additionally, sex differences in risky decision-making, cognitive bias, and motivation for food and drugs of abuse are mediated by gonadal hormones in both sexes. As neuroscientists analyze data from both sexes, it is becoming apparent that these differences are not simply mediated by hormones in females, but involve sex differences in the specific neural responses to stimuli, including both external stimuli and internal hormonal signals. Understanding sex differences in the mechanisms underlying reward-seeking behaviors and the development of substance use disorders will help uncover potential therapies and treatments that will benefit both men and women. Based on these observations, it is essential that females are included in neuroscience research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8477-8487
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number45
StatePublished - Nov 9 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported in part by National Institutes of Health Grants R01 DA049795 and R01 DA046403 to J.B.B., R01 DA040965 to T.E.B., K00DA053527 to Y.A.-C., and R00 DA41493 and R21 DA05346 to C.A.O.; and Canadian Institutes of Health Research Project Grant PJT-162312 to C.A.W. T.E.H. was supported by Institute of Mental Health Marshalls Scholars Program (University of British Columbia, Canada) and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada operating grant (Liisa A.M. Galea, 2018-04301). The authors declare no competing financial interests. Correspondence should be addressed to Jill B. Becker at Copyright © 2022 the authors

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 the authors.


  • cognitive bias
  • drug abuse
  • high-fat diet
  • risky decision-making
  • sex differences


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