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Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2008 Aug;90(2):236-49. Epub 2007 Nov 28.

A top-down perspective on dopamine, motivation and memory.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Institute of Mental Health, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. aphillips@psych.ubc.ca

Abstract

Dopamine (DA) activity, in the form of increased neural firing or enhanced release of transmitter from nerve terminals and varicosities, is linked to a number of important psychological processes including: movement; hedonic reactions to positive reward; provision of an error detection signal during the acquisition of new learning; response to novel stimuli; provision of reinforcement signals essential for acquisition of new action patterns; and incentive motivation. This review focuses primarily on our research linking dynamic changes in DA efflux on the timescale of minutes, with incentive motivation, as revealed by brain dialysis experiments in behaving animals. Recent experiments on sensory-specific satiety and successive positive and negative contrast are discussed along with the distinction between preparatory behaviors that precede contact with biologically significant stimuli and subsequent consummatory behaviors. The relationship between DA efflux in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and foraging for food based on working memory is also discussed in support of the conjecture that DA may serve as a link between motivation and memory functions. Evidence in support of 'top-down' regulation of dopaminergic activity in the mesocorticolimbic DA pathways is reviewed briefly to introduce a mechanism by which activation of ascending DA projections in this manner might optimize dopaminergic modulation of executive function within regions such as the mPFC. Collectively, these processes could ensure coordination between cognitive processes that assess current opportunities and the motivational systems that select and engage patterns of approach behavior that bring organisms into contact with the essentials for survival.

PMID:
18045671
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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