Brain gray matter correlates of general psychological need satisfaction: a voxel-based morphometry study

  • Woogul LeeEmail author
  • Johnmarshall ReeveEmail author
Original Paper


Basic psychological needs lie at the heart of the self-determination theory (SDT) explanatory framework. SDT researchers have recently undertaken neuroscientific programs of research to investigate the neural bases of psychological need satisfaction, and many have done so by using functional neuroimaging data collection methods. According to these studies, the activities of the striatum, orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), insula, and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) represent central neural mechanisms of psychological need satisfaction. These findings led us to now investigate the possibility that people might possess individual differences in the capacity to experience need satisfaction and that these individual differences would be based on differences in their structural brain volumes in these brain areas. Region of interest and whole-brain voxel-based morphometry analyses of 50 participants’ anatomic MRI scans to predict their self-reported need satisfaction over the last year found that only ventral striatum gray matter volume, but not the gray matter volumes of the dorsal striatum, OFC, insula, and ACC, positively correlated with extent of psychological need satisfaction. These neuroanatomic findings offer unique insights to understand the neuroanatomic bases of psychological need satisfaction.


Basic psychological need theory Nucleus accumbens Self-determination theory Ventral striatum Voxel-based morphometry 



This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea Grant funded by the Korean Government (NRF-2012S1A5B5A01025076).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

None of the authors on this paper has any conflict of interest to report.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

11031_2019_9799_MOESM1_ESM.docx (27 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 28 kb)


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EducationKorea National University of EducationCheongju-Si, ChungbukKorea
  2. 2.Institute of Positive Psychology and EducationAustralian Catholic UniversityNorth SydneyAustralia

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