There is a considerable literature on the neurobiology of reward, based largely on studies of addiction or substance abuse. This review considers the possibility that the neural circuits that mediate reward evolved for ethologically relevant cues, such as social attachment. Specifically, mesocorticolimbic dopamine appears important for maternal behavior in rats and pair bonding in monogamous voles. It is not yet clear that dopamine in this pathway mediates the hedonic properties of social bond formation or whether dopamine's role is more relevant to developing associative networks or assigning salience to social stimuli. The neuropeptides oxytocin (OT) and vasopressin (AVP) appear to be critical for linking social signals to the mesocorticolimbic circuit.
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