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Trends Neurosci. 2004 Dec;27(12):702-6.

Dopamine: the salient issue.

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MRC Anatomical Neuropharmacology Unit, Department of Pharmacology and Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK.


There is general agreement that midbrain dopamine neurons play key roles in reward processing. What is more controversial is the role they play in processing salient stimuli that are not rewarding. This controversy has arisen for three main reasons. First, salient sensory stimuli such as tones and lights, which are assumed not to be rewarding, increase dopamine neuron activity. Second, aversive stimuli increase firing in a minority of putative dopamine neurons. Third, dopamine release is increased following aversive stimuli. Consequently, it has been suggested that these midbrain dopamine neurons are activated by all salient stimuli, rather than specifically by rewards. However, reconsideration of these issues, in light of new findings, suggests this controversy can be resolved in favour of reward theories.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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