The discovery of dopamine as a neurotransmitter in brain by Arvid Carlsson approximately 50 years ago, and the subsequent insight provided by Paul Greengard into the cellular signalling mechanisms triggered by dopamine, gained these researchers the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2000. Dopamine research has had a greater impact on the development of biological psychiatry and psychopharmacology than work on any other neurotransmitter. Neuropsychological views of the role of dopamine in the CNS have evolved from that of a simple reward signal to a more complex situation in which dopamine encodes the importance or 'salience' of events in the external world. Hypofunctional dopamine states underlie Parkinson's disease and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and there is increasing evidence for dopamine hyperactivity in schizophrenia. Some of the medicines that are most widely used in psychiatry, such as L-DOPA, methylphenidate and neuroleptic drugs, act on dopaminergic mechanisms.