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eNeuro. 2018 Apr 6;5(2). pii: ENEURO.0330-18.2018. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0330-18.2018. eCollection 2018 Mar-Apr.

Dopaminergic Drug Effects on Probability Weighting during Risky Decision Making.

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Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University, Nijmegen, 6525 HR The Netherlands.
Department of Neurology, Radboud University Medical Centre, Nijmegen, 6525 EX The Netherlands.
Department of Psychiatry, Radboud University Medical Centre, Nijmegen, 6525 GA The Netherlands.
Karakter Child and Adolescent Psychiatry University Centre, Nijmegen, 6525 GC The Netherlands.


Dopamine has been associated with risky decision-making, as well as with pathological gambling, a behavioral addiction characterized by excessive risk-taking behavior. However, the specific mechanisms through which dopamine might act to foster risk-taking and pathological gambling remain elusive. Here we test the hypothesis that this might be achieved, in part, via modulation of subjective probability weighting during decision making. Human healthy controls (n = 21) and pathological gamblers (n = 16) played a decision-making task involving choices between sure monetary options and risky gambles both in the gain and loss domains. Each participant played the task twice, either under placebo or the dopamine D2/D3 receptor antagonist sulpiride, in a double-blind counterbalanced design. A prospect theory modelling approach was used to estimate subjective probability weighting and sensitivity to monetary outcomes. Consistent with prospect theory, we found that participants presented a distortion in the subjective weighting of probabilities, i.e., they overweighted low probabilities and underweighted moderate to high probabilities, both in the gain and loss domains. Compared with placebo, sulpiride attenuated this distortion in the gain domain. Across drugs, the groups did not differ in their probability weighting, although gamblers consistently underweighted losing probabilities in the placebo condition. Overall, our results reveal that dopamine D2/D3 receptor antagonism modulates the subjective weighting of probabilities in the gain domain, in the direction of more objective, economically rational decision making.


dopamine; pathological gambling; probability weighting; prospect theory; reward; risky decision making

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