Role of dopamine in the motivational and cognitive control of behavior

Neuroscientist. 2008 Aug;14(4):381-95. doi: 10.1177/1073858408317009.


Brain dopamine has often been implicated in impulsive and/or inflexible behaviors, which may reflect failures of motivational and/or cognitive control. However, the precise role of dopamine in such failures of behavioral control is not well understood, not least because they implicate paradoxical changes in distinct dopamine systems that innervate dissociable neural circuits. In addition, there are large individual differences in the response to dopaminergic drugs with some individuals benefiting from and others being impaired by the same drug. This complicates progress in the understanding of dopamine's role in behavioral control processes, but also provides a major problem for neuropsychiatry, where some individuals are disproportionately vulnerable to the adverse effects of dopamine-enhancing drugs on motivation and cognition. Recent progress is reviewed from cognitive and behavioral neuroscience research on motivation and cognitive control, which begins to elucidate the factors that mediate the complex roles of mesolimbic, mesocortical, and nigrostriatal dopamine in behavioral control.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior / drug effects
  • Behavior / physiology*
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Dopamine / physiology*
  • Dopamine Agents / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Motivation*


  • Dopamine Agents
  • Dopamine