Sodium deficit poses a life-threatening challenge to body fluid homeostasis and generates a sodium appetite - the behavioral drive to ingest sodium. Dr. Randall R. Sakai greatly contributed to our understanding of the hormonal responses to negative sodium balance and to the central processing of these signals. Reactivity to the taste of sodium solutions and the motivation to seek and consume sodium changes dramatically with body fluid balance. Here, we review studies that collectively suggest that sodium deficit recruits the mesolimbic system to play a role in the behavioral expression of sodium appetite. The recruitment of the mesolimbic system likely contributes to intense sodium seeking and reinforces sodium consumption observed in deficient animals. Some of the hormones that are released in response to sodium deficit act directly on both dopamine and nucleus accumbens elements. Moreover, the taste of sodium in sodium deficient rats evokes a pattern of dopamine and nucleus accumbens activity that is similar to responses to rewarding stimuli. A very different pattern of activity is observed in non-deficient rats. Given the well-characterized endocrine response to sodium deficit and its central action, sodium appetite becomes an ideal model for understanding the role of mesolimbic signaling in reward, reinforcement and the generation of motivated behavior.