Effects of Dopamine in Value-Based Learning

Allan Mai ‘20

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter with implicated functions involving value-based learning. Researchers have discovered that dopamine signals reward prediction and incentive motivation when the brain is actively utilizing its decision making and value-based learning functions. Additionally, dopamine receptors in the brain can be divided into two groups, D1 and D2, which have opposite functions in terms of reward related and aversion related behaviors. Researchers have used a probabilistic reversal learning paradigm and a trial-by-trial analysis to determine which of the receptors is responsible for which behavior.

Using receptor agonists and antagonists in the experiment, it was discovered that the D2 receptors were responsible for explorative behavior as well as negative feedback learning. D1, however, is responsible for positive feedback learning. Dopaminergic drugs and D2 infusion drugs were shown to affect response latencies in rats. However, scientists emphasized the fact that both these receptors are working in complement with each other to form the value-based learning behavior with which we are all familiar with.


  1. J. Verharen, et. al., Differential contributions of striatal dopamine D1 and D2 receptors to component processes of value-based decision making. Neuropsychopharmacology, (2019).
  2. Image retrieved from: https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-head-bust-print-artwork-724994/

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