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AAN: Dopamine Medications Affect Reward Behavior

Researchers find that levodopa increases reward-seeking behavior

THURSDAY, April 26 (HealthDay News) -- Medications that increase or decrease dopamine levels, such as levodopa or haloperidol, may strongly influence reward-seeking behavior, according to research presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Boston.

Mathias Pessiglione, Ph.D., of Salpetriere Hospital in Paris, France, and colleagues studied 39 healthy British adults aged 18 to 39 who received either levodopa, haloperidol or placebo. Then they showed each group symbols that were associated with different probabilities of winning or losing money. To win the most money, subjects had to learn through trial and error which symbols resulted in highest payoffs.

The researchers found that the levodopa group was 95 percent more likely than the haloperidol group to choose symbols associated with the highest payoffs. They also found that the levodopa group won the most money, but did not lose less money than the other groups.

"We conclude that dopamine-dependent modulation of striatal activity can account for how the human brain uses reward prediction errors to improve future decisions," the authors write. "Our finding might provide insight into models of clinical disorders in which dopamine is implicated, and for which levodopa and haloperidol are used as therapeutic agents, such as Parkinson disease and schizophrenia."

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