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Nat Neurosci. 2018 Jun;21(6):787-793. doi: 10.1038/s41593-018-0152-y. Epub 2018 May 14.

What does dopamine mean?

Author information

1
Departments of Neurology and Psychiatry, and Kavli Institute for Fundamental Neuroscience, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA. joshua.berke@ucsf.edu.

Abstract

Dopamine is a critical modulator of both learning and motivation. This presents a problem: how can target cells know whether increased dopamine is a signal to learn or to move? It is often presumed that motivation involves slow ('tonic') dopamine changes, while fast ('phasic') dopamine fluctuations convey reward prediction errors for learning. Yet recent studies have shown that dopamine conveys motivational value and promotes movement even on subsecond timescales. Here I describe an alternative account of how dopamine regulates ongoing behavior. Dopamine release related to motivation is rapidly and locally sculpted by receptors on dopamine terminals, independently from dopamine cell firing. Target neurons abruptly switch between learning and performance modes, with striatal cholinergic interneurons providing one candidate switch mechanism. The behavioral impact of dopamine varies by subregion, but in each case dopamine provides a dynamic estimate of whether it is worth expending a limited internal resource, such as energy, attention, or time.

PMID:
29760524
PMCID:
PMC6358212
DOI:
10.1038/s41593-018-0152-y
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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