Dopamine is known to be an important neurochemical for reward processing and movement. However, the relationship between these two processes is not yet fully understood. An article from the Walton Lab, published in Nature Neuroscience this week, shows for the first time that dopamine release only increases in anticipation of future benefits if and when an appropriate action is initiated.
The team, together with researchers in the MRC Brain Network Dynamics Unit and Department of Clinical Neurology, used electrochemistry to measure real-time dopamine release in conditions where rewards could be earned either by making or withholding an action. While dopamine levels rose rapidly when an action was correctly initiated, no such increase was seen when a movement was correctly inhibited or an inappropriate response was made. This suggests that dopamine does not just respond to predictions of future reward, but rather acts to promote beneficial actions.