Dopaminergic mechanisms in actions and habits

J Neurosci. 2007 Aug 1;27(31):8181-3. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1671-07.2007.


Recent studies suggest new ways to interpret dopaminergic actions in goal-directed performance and habitual responding. In the early stages of learning dopamine plays an essential role, but with extended training dopamine appears to play a decreasing role in response expression. Experimental manipulation of dopamine levels alters the correlation of cortical and striatal neural activity in behaving animals, and these dopamine-dependent changes in corticostriatal correlations may be reflected in changes in action selection in the basal ganglia. Consistent with this hypothesis, changes in dopamine signaling brought about by sensitization with amphetamine mimic the transition from goal-directed to habit-based instrumental performance. At the cellular level, dopamine-dependent synaptic plasticity may be important initially, and subsequently lead to more persistent changes that no longer require dopamine. The locus of these actions within the cortical and corticostriatal circuitry is a focus on ongoing research.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Corpus Striatum / physiology
  • Dopamine / physiology*
  • Habits*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Receptors, Dopamine / physiology


  • Receptors, Dopamine
  • Dopamine