•The act of recalling positive life events enhances emotion and has tangible valueSummary
•Corticostriatal fMRI signals index emotion evoked by recalling positive life events
•Striatal activity relates to positive mood enhancing effects of reminiscing
•Striatal responses to positive memories may relate to individual resilience
Reminders of happy memories can bring back pleasant feelings tied to the original experience, suggesting an intrinsic value in reminiscing about the positive past. However, the neural circuitry underlying the rewarding aspects of autobiographical memory is poorly understood. Using fMRI, we observed enhanced activity during the recall of positive relative to neutral autobiographical memories in corticostriatal circuits that also responded to monetary reward. Enhanced activity in the striatum and medial prefrontal cortex was associated with increases in positive emotion during recall, and striatal engagement further correlated with individual measures of resiliency. Striatal response to the recall of positive memories was greater in individuals whose mood improved after the task. Notably, participants were willing to sacrifice a more tangible reward, money, in order to reminisce about positive past experiences. Our findings suggest that recalling positive autobiographical memories is intrinsically valuable, which may be adaptive for regulating positive emotion and promoting better well-being.