Dopamine plays an important role in goal-directed behavior, through its modulatory influence on striatal neurons. It is unclear whether tonic dopamine levels, which regulate the vigor of acting, interact with the phasic dopamine response to reward that drives instrumental behavior.In a randomized placebo-controlled study in healthy volunteers, we show that methylphenidate, a drug that increases tonic dopamine levels, systematically reduced striatal phasic BOLD responses to gain and loss in a gambling task as measured with fMRI. It also increased response vigor and reward expectancy-related BOLD signals in the ventral striatum. These findings suggest that striatal tonic dopamine levels constitute an average reward expectation signal that modulates the phasic dopaminergic response to reward. This offers opportunities for treatment of behavioral disorders associated with abnormal reward sensitivity.
- Pharmacological fMRI