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article imageDopamine - a pleasure and reward hormone? It's one big story

By Lesley Lanir     May 9, 2013 in Science
Storrs Mansfield - Dopamine is well-known as the pleasure hormone. One scientist who has researched its effects for decades says this isn't so; it's a "story" and says the claims that dopamine directly increases pleasure are untrue if literature is examined closely.
John Salamone, professor of psychology and a researcher of the brain chemical dopamine refutes the idea in a recent article The Mysterious Motivational Functions of Mesolimbic Dopamine that the neurotransmitter dopamine is connected to feelings of pleasure. He claims that the idea of dopamine being associated directly with producing feelings of pleasure is a story constructed years ago based on the fact that scientists chose to focus on certain research results without paying attention to or ignoring other relevant and significant findings.
Salamone states that although "it has become traditional to label dopamine neurons as ‘‘reward’’ neurons, this is an overgeneralization." Salome states that although there is an enormous amount of literature going back decades linking dopamine to aspects of aversive motivation and learning, "the established tendency has been to emphasize dopaminergic involvement in reward, pleasure, addiction, and reward-related learning."
He lists research in addition to his own that states that there is a large amount of evidence showing dopamine transmission is not directly responsible for "hedonic reactions to stimuli."
Salamone’s own studies have produced cost/benefit choice findings indicating that animals with lowered levels of dopamine more often that not choose the easy, low-value reward, while animals with normal levels of dopamine put effort into reaching the high-value reward. Findings of studies in humans have generated consistent results. Salamone says that when you take his studies and all the other related studies, the results point to the many similarities between findings gathered from animal models and those collected from human research, in terms of many of the motivational functions that dopamine is associated with.
Salamone says that an abundance of research literature is being overlooked indicating that dopamine is involved in aversive motivation - when someone reacts to avoid punishment or a negative outcome.
Salamone concludes by saying that these findings are essential to further clinical research on the lack of motivation seen in those people with depression, schizophrenia, substance abuse, and other related disorders.
More about Dopamine, Hormone, Pleasure, Motivation, John Salamone
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