Gratitude is an emotion and a trait linked to well-being and better health, and welcoming benefits to oneself is instrumentally valuable. However, theoretical and empirical work highlights that gratitude is more fully understood as an intrinsically valuable moral emotion. To understand the role of neural reward systems in the association between gratitude and altruistic motivations we tested two hypotheses: First, whether self-reported propensity toward gratitude relates to fMRI-derived indicators of “pure altruism,” operationalized as the neural valuation of passive, private transfers to a charity versus to oneself. In young adult female participants, self-reported gratitude and altruism were associated with “neural pure altruism” in ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) and nucleus accumbens. Second, whether neural pure altruism can be increased through practicing gratitude. In a double-blind study, we randomly assigned participants to either a gratitude-journal or active-neutral control journal group for 3 weeks. Relative to pre-test levels, gratitude journaling increased the neural pure altruism response in the VMPFC. We posit that as a context-dependent value-sensitive cortical region, the VMPFC supports change with gratitude practice, a change that is larger for benefits to others versus oneself.