Dopaminergic stimulation enhances confidence and accuracy in seeing rapidly presented words

J Vis. 2011 Feb 23;11(2):15. doi: 10.1167/11.2.15.


Liberal acceptance, overconfidence, and increased activity of the neurotransmitter dopamine have been proposed to account for abnormal sensory experiences, for instance, hallucinations in schizophrenia. In normal subjects, increased sensory experience in Yoga Nidra meditation is linked to striatal dopamine release. We therefore hypothesize that the neurotransmitter dopamine may function as a regulator of subjective confidence of visual perception in the normal brain. Although much is known about the effect of stimulation by neurotransmitters on cognitive functions, their effect on subjective confidence of perception has never been recorded experimentally before. In a controlled study of 24 normal, healthy female university students with the dopamine agonist pergolide given orally, we show that dopaminergic activation increases confidence in seeing rapidly presented words. It also improves performance in a forced-choice word recognition task. These results demonstrate neurotransmitter regulation of subjective conscious experience of perception and provide evidence for a crucial role of dopamine.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Body Patterning
  • Consciousness / physiology
  • Discrimination, Psychological
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Dopamine Agonists / administration & dosage*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Pergolide / administration & dosage*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reference Values
  • Time Factors
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult


  • Dopamine Agonists
  • Pergolide
  • Dopamine