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    Reward-predicting cues motivate goal-directed behavior, but in unstable environments humans must also be able to flexibly update cue-reward associations. While the capacity of reward cues to trigger motivation ('reactivity') as well as flexibility in cue-reward associations have been linked to the neurotransmitter dopamine in humans, the specific contribution of the dopamine D1 receptor family to these behaviors remained elusive. To fill this gap, we conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind pharmacological study testing the impact of three different doses of a novel D1 agonist (relative to placebo) on reactivity to reward-predicting cues (Pavlovian-to-instrumental transfer) and flexibility of cue-outcome associations (reversal learning). We observed that the impact of the D1 agonist crucially depended on baseline working memory functioning, which has been identified as a proxy for baseline dopamine synthesis capacity. Specifically, increasing D1 receptor stimulation strengthened Pavlovian-to-instrumental transfer in individuals with high baseline working memory capacity. In contrast, higher doses of the D1 agonist improved reversal learning only in individuals with low baseline working memory functioning. Our findings suggest a crucial and baseline-dependent role of D1 receptor activation in controlling both cue reactivity and the flexibility of cue-reward associations.


    Alexander Soutschek, Rouba Kozak, Nicholas de Martinis, William Howe, Christopher J Burke, Ernst Fehr, Alexander Jetter, Philippe N Tobler. Activation of D1 receptors affects human reactivity and flexibility to valued cues. Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. 2020 Apr;45(5):780-785

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    PMID: 31962344

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