Inflammatory cytokines have been shown to have a direct effect on mesolimbic dopamine (DA) that is associated with a reduced willingness to expend effort for reward. To date, however, the broader implications of this communication between inflammation and mesolimbic DA have yet to be explored. Here, we suggest that the metabolic demands of chronic low-grade inflammation induce a reduction of striatal DA that in turn leads to a steeper effort-discounting curve because of reduced perceived ability (can't) versus preference (won't) for reward. This theoretical framework can inform how the mesolimbic DA system responds to increased immunometabolic demands during chronic inflammation, ultimately contributing to motivational impairments in psychiatric and other medical disorders.
Keywords: cytokines; dopamine; effort; immunometabolism; inflammation.
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