Dopamine regulation of action initiation and self-control

Year of award: 2016


  • Prof Mark Walton

    University of Oxford

Project summary

The brain chemical dopamine is known to be vitally important for motivation and decision-making and whether an action is worth taking. The amount of dopamine correlates with the expected benefits of a reward. Moreover, a lack of dopamine has been linked to apathy while too much dopamine can cause impulsive behaviour. However, why this is the case is still poorly understood. One way to investigate the role of dopamine in the brain is to manipulate it using drugs. But while the effects of drugs can last for hours, dopamine release can happen in a fraction of a second.

I will be using new technologies to record and disrupt moment-by-moment dopamine in animals as they perform tasks requiring them sometimes to take action and other times to refrain from taking action in order to gain rewards. I will therefore be able to determine the direct relationship between real-time dopamine release and taking or withholding actions.

This research will provide new insights into impulsivity and motivational disorders.