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How do differences in motivational states affect learning and how is this reflected in phasic dopamine transmission?

The choices we make are frequently driven by a desire to satisfy a current or upcoming need.  However, it is not fully understood how our brains enable us to prioritise actions based on motivational state and how such states interact with learning.  Parts of the orbitofrontal and anterior cingulate cortex project to midbrain structures involved in regulation of energy balance such as the hypothalamus and brainstem.  Similarly, certain neuropeptides involved in homeostatic processes are known to modulate the firing rates of dopamine cells.

Current research focuses on:

  • Electrochemical studies of state-based valuation, learning and decision making

Selected Key Papers

  • Martinez V, Walton ME, Gan JO, Phillips PE (2008).  Phasic dopamine transmission following state-based reinforcer devaluation in a dual-reward detection task.  Social Neuroscience Abstract. 490.17