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Author Notes:

Michael T. Treadway, 301WilsonHall, 111 21st Avenue South,Nashville, TN 37203. E-mail: m.treadway@vanderbilt.edu.

M.T.T., R.M.K., and D.H.Z. designed research; M.T.T., R.L.C., N.D.W., A.S., R.B., and R.M.K. performed research; M.T.T., J.W.B., R.L.C., N.D.W., R.L., M.S.A., and R.M.K. contributed unpublished reagents/analytic tools; M.T.T., J.W.B., and R.L. analyzed data; M.T.T., J.W.B., and D.H.Z. wrote the paper.

M.T.T. and J.W.B. contributed equally to this work.

The authors declare no competing financial interests.


Research Funding:

This research was funded by National Institute on Drug Abuse Grant R01DA019670-04 (D.H.Z.); and National Institute of Mental Health Grants R21 MH092751 (D.H.Z.); and F31MH087015 (M.T.T.).


  • Adult
  • Brain
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Decision Making
  • Dopamine
  • Dopaminergic Neurons
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Reward
  • Young Adult

Dopaminergic mechanisms of individual differences in human effort-based decision-making


Journal Title:

Journal of Neuroscience Nursing


Volume 32, Number 18


, Pages 6170-6176

Type of Work:

Article | Final Publisher PDF


Preferences for different combinations of costs and benefits are a key source of variability in economic decision-making. However, the neurochemical basis of individual differences in these preferences is poorly understood. Studies in both animals and humans have demonstrated that direct manipulation of the neurotransmitter dopamine (DA) significantly impacts cost/benefit decision-making, but less is known about how naturally occurring variation in DA systems may relate to individual differences in economic behavior. In the present study, 25 healthy volunteers completed a dual-scan PET imaging protocol with [18F]fallypride and d-amphetamine to measure DA responsivity and separately completed the effort expenditure for rewards task, a behavioral measure of cost/benefit decision-making in humans. We found that individual differences in DA function in the left striatum and ventromedial prefrontal cortex were correlated with a willingness to expend greater effort for larger rewards, particularly when probability of reward receipt was low. Additionally, variability in DA responses in the bilateral insula was negatively correlated with willingness to expend effort for rewards, consistent with evidence implicating this region in the processing of response costs. These findings highlight the role of DA signaling in striatal, prefrontal, and insular regions as key neurochemical mechanisms underlying individual differences in cost/benefit decision-making.

Copyright information:

© 2012 The Authors.

This is an Open Access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
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