Serotonin and dopamine: unifying affective, activational, and decision functions

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2011 Jan;36(1):98-113. doi: 10.1038/npp.2010.121. Epub 2010 Aug 25.


Serotonin, like dopamine (DA), has long been implicated in adaptive behavior, including decision making and reinforcement learning. However, although the two neuromodulators are tightly related and have a similar degree of functional importance, compared with DA, we have a much less specific understanding about the mechanisms by which serotonin affects behavior. Here, we draw on recent work on computational models of dopaminergic function to suggest a framework by which many of the seemingly diverse functions associated with both DA and serotonin-comprising both affective and activational ones, as well as a number of other functions not overtly related to either-can be seen as consequences of a single root mechanism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Affect / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Avoidance Learning / physiology
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Chemistry / physiology*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Dopamine / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • Motivation / physiology
  • Reward
  • Serotonin / physiology*


  • Serotonin
  • Dopamine