Intracranial self-stimulation (ICSS) is a technique used in neuroscience research to study the rewarding properties of electrical stimulation of the brain and its effects on behavior. It is based on the finding that animals will actively seek out and self-administer electrical stimulation to certain brain regions when given the opportunity. This research has established ICSS as a powerful tool for studying the neural systems involved in reward and reinforcement.

The history of ICSS research dates back to the mid-1950s, when Olds and Milner first discovered that rats would self-stimulate a region of the brain known as the lateral hypothalamus (Olds & Milner, 1954). This finding was an important milestone in the development of reward-based learning theories and laid the foundation for subsequent research using ICSS. Since then, the technique has been used to study a wide range of topics, including the effects of drugs on the reward system, the development of addiction, and the neural correlates of reward.

More recently, ICSS has been used to study the effects of brain stimulation on a variety of cognitive and affective behaviors in both animals and humans. For example, studies have shown that ICSS can modulate learning and memory formation (Vouloumanos & Stuber, 2014) and can be used to reduce anxiety and depression in clinical populations (Koepp et al., 2012).

Overall, ICSS is a powerful tool for studying the neural systems involved in reward and reinforcement, and its use in neuroscience research continues to expand.


Koepp, M. J., Garnham, J., Zaghloul, K. A., Oliver, J., Nott, Z., & Brown, P. (2012). Therapeutic deep brain stimulation for anxiety and depression. Brain, 135(Pt 11), 3351–3360.

Olds, J., & Milner, P. (1954). Positive reinforcement produced by electrical stimulation of septal area and other regions of rat brain. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 47(6), 419–427.

Vouloumanos, A., & Stuber, G. D. (2014). Intracranial self-stimulation to study reward and memory. Trends in Neurosciences, 37(7), 372–383.

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