Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BACKGROUND: Sensation-seeking is a trait that constitutes an important vulnerability factor for a variety of psychopathologies with high social cost. However, little is understood either about the mechanisms underlying motivation for intense sensory experiences or their neuropharmacological modulation in humans. METHODS: Here, we first evaluate a novel paradigm to investigate sensation-seeking in humans. This test probes the extent to which participants choose either to avoid or self-administer an intense tactile stimulus (mild electric stimulation) orthogonal to performance on a simple economic decision-making task. Next we investigate in a different set of participants whether this behavior is sensitive to manipulation of dopamine D2 receptors using a within-subjects, placebo-controlled, double-blind design. RESULTS: In both samples, individuals with higher self-reported sensation-seeking chose a greater proportion of mild electric stimulation-associated stimuli, even when this involved sacrifice of monetary gain. Computational modelling analysis determined that people who assigned an additional positive economic value to mild electric stimulation-associated stimuli exhibited speeding of responses when choosing these stimuli. In contrast, those who assigned a negative value exhibited slowed responses. These findings are consistent with involvement of low-level, approach-avoidance processes. Furthermore, the D2 antagonist haloperidol selectively decreased the additional economic value assigned to mild electric stimulation-associated stimuli in individuals who showed approach reactions to these stimuli under normal conditions (behavioral high-sensation seekers). CONCLUSIONS: These findings provide the first direct evidence of sensation-seeking behavior being driven by an approach-avoidance-like mechanism, modulated by dopamine, in humans. They provide a framework for investigation of psychopathologies for which extreme sensation-seeking constitutes a vulnerability factor.

Original publication

DOI

10.1093/ijnp/pyv041

Type

Journal article

Journal

Int J Neuropsychopharmacol

Publication Date

09/04/2015

Volume

18

Keywords

D2 antagonist, addiction, dopamine, impulsivity, sensation-seeking, Avoidance Learning, Computer Simulation, Decision Making, Dopamine, Dopamine D2 Receptor Antagonists, Double-Blind Method, Electric Stimulation, Exploratory Behavior, Female, Haloperidol, Humans, Individuality, Male, Models, Economic, Models, Psychological, Motivation, Neuropsychological Tests, Receptors, Dopamine D2, Risk-Taking, Self Stimulation, Sensation, Young Adult