Role of brain dopamine in food reward and reinforcement

Intramural Research Program, Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute on Drug Abuse, Baltimore, MD 21224, USA.
Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences (Impact Factor: 7.06). 08/2006; 361(1471):1149-58. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2006.1854
Source: PubMed


The ability of food to establish and maintain response habits and conditioned preferences depends largely on the function of brain dopamine systems. While dopaminergic transmission in the nucleus accumbens appears sufficient for some forms of reward, the role of dopamine in food reward does not appear to be restricted to this region. Dopamine plays an important role in both the ability to energize feeding and to reinforce food-seeking behaviour; the role in energizing feeding is secondary to the prerequisite role in reinforcement. Dopaminergic activation is triggered by the auditory and visual as well as the tactile, olfactory, and gustatory stimuli of foods. While dopamine plays a central role in the feeding and food-seeking of normal animals, some food rewarded learning can be seen in genetically engineered dopamine-deficient mice.

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    • "In the mammalian brain, midbrain dopaminergic cells project widely to both cortical and subcortical regions, forming the mesocortical, mesolimbic and nigrostriatal DA systems. These widespread dopaminergic projections provide the primary source of DA to the brain and the dynamic shift from tonic to phasic DA cell firing and transmitter release is thought to modulate brain function to signal stimulus salience of both artificial and natural reinforcers, and to enhance learning of behavioral responses toward such reinforcers (Wise 2006; Schultz 2010). To signal salience , DA neurons switch from an irregular single-spike firing to phasic burst-like firing, which results in increased extracellular DA in the target regions (Schultz 1998; Phillips et al. 2003). "
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    • "It is currently unclear whether the mesolimbic system plays a role in the hedonic-driven food consumption [7], [10], [11]. The mesolimbic system is activated in response to palatable foods, and dopamine release in the NAc augments the drive to obtain food rewards [12]–[14]. However, NAc dopamine depletion alone does not alter feeding, and pharmacological blockade of dopamine receptors in the NAc affects motor behavior and has no effects on food intake [13], [15]. "
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