Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Dopamine enhances expectation of pleasure in humans

Date:
November 15, 2009
Source:
University College London
Summary:
Enhancing the effects of the brain chemical dopamine influences how people make life choices by affecting expectations of pleasure, according to new research.

Brain scan using MRI.
Credit: Image courtesy of University College London

Enhancing the effects of the brain chemical dopamine influences how people make life choices by affecting expectations of pleasure, according to new research from the UCL Institute of Neurology.

The study, published in Current Biology, confirms an important role for dopamine in how human expectations are formed and how people make complex decisions. It also contributes to an understanding of how pleasure expectation can go awry, for example in drug addiction.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter produced in several areas of the brain that is found in a wide variety of animals. Its role in reward learning and reward-seeking behaviour is well established by animal studies -- however, in humans its role is much less understood.

Lead author Dr Tali Sharot, Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at UCL, said: "Humans make much more complex decisions than other animals -- such as which job to take, where to go on holiday, whether to start a family -- and we wanted to understand the role of dopamine in making these types of decisions. Our results indicate that when we consider alternative options when making real-life decisions, dopamine has a role in signalling the expected pleasure from those possible future events. We then use that signal to make our choices."

The research team, which included Dr Tamara Shiner and Professor Ray Dolan, examined estimated pleasure of future events before and after the administration of a drug called L-DOPA which is known to enhance dopamine function in the brain and is commonly used to treat patients with Parkinson's disease. The 61 study participants were asked to rate their expectations of happiness if they were to holiday at each of 80 destinations, from Thailand to Greece. They were then given L-DOPA or a placebo and asked to imagine holidaying in those destinations.

The following day participants had to pick between a series of paired destinations that they had initially assigned with equal ratings, one member of the pair was imagined under L-DOPA the day before and the other under placebo. Finally, they rated the full set of 80 destinations again.

Ratings for particular destinations increased after they were imagined under L-DOPA's influence. That increase also affected the participants' selections the following day. Dr Sharot added: "We had reason to believe that dopamine would enhance expectations of pleasure in humans, but were surprised at the strength of this effect. The enhancement lasted at least 24 hours and was evident in almost 80 per cent of the subjects."

The study builds on earlier work by Dr Sharot and colleagues, which used brain imaging as participants imagined holiday destinations. An area of the brain called the striatum tracked expectations and the scientists found that they could take that signal and predict what the participants would choose. The authors believed this was dopamine at work and set up this study to further explore its role.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University College London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Sharot et al. Dopamine Enhances Expectation of Pleasure in Humans. Current Biology, 2009; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.10.025

Cite This Page:

University College London. "Dopamine enhances expectation of pleasure in humans." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 November 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091112121603.htm>.
University College London. (2009, November 15). Dopamine enhances expectation of pleasure in humans. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091112121603.htm
University College London. "Dopamine enhances expectation of pleasure in humans." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091112121603.htm (accessed April 23, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How Smaller Plates And Cutlery Could Make You Feel Fuller

How Smaller Plates And Cutlery Could Make You Feel Fuller

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) NBC's "Today" conducted an experiment to see if changing the size of plates and utensils affects the amount individuals eat. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do We Get Nicer With Age?

Do We Get Nicer With Age?

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) A recent report claims personality can change over time as we age, and usually that means becoming nicer and more emotionally stable. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How to Master Motherhood With the Best Work/Life Balance

How to Master Motherhood With the Best Work/Life Balance

TheStreet (Apr. 22, 2014) In the U.S., there are more than 11 million couples trying to conceive at any given time. From helping celebrity moms like Bethanny Frankel to ordinary soon-to-be-moms, TV personality and parenting expert, Rosie Pope, gives you the inside scoop on mastering motherhood. London-born entrepreneur Pope is the creative force behind Rosie Pope Maternity and MomPrep. She explains why being an entrepreneur offers the best life balance for her and tips for all types of moms. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sorry, Guys, Only Women Can Make Their Voices Sound Sexier

Sorry, Guys, Only Women Can Make Their Voices Sound Sexier

Newsy (Apr. 21, 2014) According to researchers at Albright College, women have the ability to make their voices sound sexier, but men don't. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins