Dopaminergic and glutamatergic regulation of effort- and delay-based decision making

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2008 Jul;33(8):1966-79. doi: 10.1038/sj.npp.1301565. Epub 2007 Sep 5.


Cost/benefit decisions regarding the relative effort or delay costs associated with a particular response are mediated by distributed dopaminergic and glutamatergic neural circuits. The present study assessed the contribution of dopamine and NMDA glutamate receptors in these different forms of decision making using novel effort- and delay-discounting procedures. In the effort-discounting task, rats could either emit a single response on a low-reward lever to receive two pellets, or make 2, 5, 10, or 20 responses on a high-reward (HR) lever to obtain four pellets. In the delay-discounting task, one press of the HR lever delivered four pellets after a delay (0.5-8 s). A third task (effort-discounting with equivalent delays) was similar to the effort-discounting procedure, except that the relative delay to reward delivery was equalized across response options. The dopamine receptor antagonist flupenthixol reduced choice of the HR lever under all three testing conditions, indicating that dopamine antagonism alters effort-based decision making independent of any contribution of delay. Amphetamine exerted dose-dependent, biphasic effects; a higher dose (0.5 mg/kg) increased effort discounting, whereas a lower dose (0.25 mg/kg) reduced delay discounting. The noncompetitive NMDA antagonist ketamine (5 mg/kg) increased effort and delay discounting, but did not affect choice on the effort with equivalent delays task, indicating a reduced tolerance for delayed rewards. These findings highlight the utility of these procedures in pharmacologically dissociating the neurochemical mechanisms underlying these different, yet interrelated forms of decision making. Furthermore, they suggest that dopamine and NMDA receptors make dissociable contributions to these different types of cost-benefit analyses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Conditioning, Operant / drug effects
  • Decision Making / drug effects*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Dextroamphetamine / pharmacology
  • Dopamine / physiology*
  • Dopamine Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Flupenthixol / pharmacology
  • Glutamic Acid / physiology*
  • Ketamine / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Reward
  • Satiety Response / drug effects
  • Synaptic Transmission / drug effects


  • Dopamine Antagonists
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Ketamine
  • Flupenthixol
  • Dextroamphetamine
  • Dopamine