Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders

, 4:20

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Reward processing in autism: a thematic series

  • Gabriel DichterAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry and the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Email author 
  • , Ralph AdolphsAffiliated withDepartments of Psychology and Neuroscience and Biology, California Institute of Technology
Topical Collection
Reward processing in autism


This thematic series presents theoretical and empirical papers focused on understanding autism from the perspective of reward processing deficits. Although the core symptoms of autism have not traditionally been conceptualized with respect to altered reward-based processes, it is clear that brain reward circuitry plays a critical role in guiding social and nonsocial learning and behavior throughout development. Additionally, brain reward circuitry may respond to social sources of information in ways that are similar to responses to primary rewards, and recent clinical data consistently suggest abnormal behavioral and neurobiologic responses to rewards in autism. This thematic series presents empirical data and review papers that highlight the utility of considering autism from the perspective of reward processing deficits. Our hope is that this novel framework may further elucidate autism pathophysiology, with the ultimate goal of yielding novel insights with potential therapeutic implications.