Mesolimbic Dopamine and the Regulation of Motivated Behavior

  • John D. Salamone
  • Marta Pardo
  • Samantha E. Yohn
  • Laura López-Cruz
  • Noemí SanMiguel
  • Mercè Correa
Part of the Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences book series (CTBN, volume 27)


It has been known for some time that nucleus accumbens dopamine (DA) is involved in aspects of motivation , but theoretical approaches to understanding the functions of DA have continued to evolve based upon emerging data and novel concepts. Although it has become traditional to label DA neurons as “reward” neurons, the actual findings are more complicated than that, because they indicate that DA neurons can respond to a variety of motivationally significant stimuli. Moreover, it is important to distinguish between aspects of motivation that are differentially affected by dopaminergic manipulations. Studies that involve nucleus accumbens DA antagonism or depletion indicate that accumbens DA does not mediate primary food motivation or appetite. Nevertheless, DA is involved in appetitive and aversive motivational processes including behavioral activation , exertion of effort, sustained task engagement, and Pavlovian-to-instrumental transfer. Interference with accumbens DA transmission affects instrumental behavior in a manner that interacts with the response requirements of the task and also shifts effort-related choice behavior, biasing animals toward low-effort alternatives. Dysfunctions of mesolimbic DA may contribute to motivational symptoms seen in various psychopathologies, including depression , schizophrenia, parkinsonism, and other disorders.


Dopamine Accumbens Behavioral activation Motivation Reward Depression Fatigue Anergia 



This work was supported by a grant to J.S. from the National Institute of Mental Health (MH094966), and to Mercè Correa from U.J.I. P1.1A2013-01.

Disclosure/Conflict of Interest

J. Salamone has received grants from Merck-Serrono, Pfizer, Roche, Shire, and Prexa.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • John D. Salamone
    • 1
  • Marta Pardo
    • 2
  • Samantha E. Yohn
    • 1
  • Laura López-Cruz
    • 2
  • Noemí SanMiguel
    • 2
  • Mercè Correa
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of ConnecticutStorrsUSA
  2. 2.Àrea de PsicobiologiaUniversitat Jaume ICastellóSpain

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