Opponency revisited: competition and cooperation between dopamine and serotonin

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2011 Jan;36(1):74-97. doi: 10.1038/npp.2010.151. Epub 2010 Sep 29.


Affective valence lies on a spectrum ranging from punishment to reward. The coding of such spectra in the brain almost always involves opponency between pairs of systems or structures. There is ample evidence for the role of dopamine in the appetitive half of this spectrum, but little agreement about the existence, nature, or role of putative aversive opponents such as serotonin. In this review, we consider the structure of opponency in terms of previous biases about the nature of the decision problems that animals face, the conflicts that may thus arise between Pavlovian and instrumental responses, and an additional spectrum joining invigoration to inhibition. We use this analysis to shed light on aspects of the role of serotonin and its interactions with dopamine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Affect / physiology
  • Animals
  • Avoidance Learning / physiology
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Chemistry / physiology*
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Dopamine / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Motivation / physiology
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • Serotonin / physiology*


  • Serotonin
  • Dopamine