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Affiliated institutions: Duke University

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Description: Although numerous studies have suggested that pharmacological alteration of the dopamine (DA) system modulates reward discounting, these studies have produced inconsistent findings. Here, we conducted a systematic review and pre-registered meta-analysis to evaluate DA drug-mediated effects on reward discounting of time, probability, and effort costs in studies of healthy rats. This produced a total of 1,343 articles to screen for inclusion/exclusion. From the literature, we identified 117 effects from approximately 1,549 individual rats. Using random-effects with maximum-likelihood estimation, we meta-analyzed placebo-controlled drug effects for (1) DA D1-like receptor agonists and (2) antagonists, (3) D2-like agonists and (4) antagonists, and (5) DA transporter-modulating drugs. Meta-analytic effects showed that DAT-modulating drugs decreased reward discounting. While D1 and D2 antagonists both increased discounting, agonist drugs for those receptors had no significant effect on discounting behavior. A number of these effects appear contingent on study design features like cost type, rat strain, and microinfusion location. These findings suggest a nuanced relationship between DA and discounting behavior and urge caution when drawing generalizations about the effects of pharmacologically manipulating dopamine on reward-based decision making.


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