Special News ReportNeuroscience

Getting the Brain's Attention

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Science  03 Oct 1997:
Vol. 278, Issue 5335, pp. 35-37
DOI: 10.1126/science.278.5335.35

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Researchers dissecting the role of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain are finding that rather than signaling pleasure as previously thought, it may act to highlight significant stimuli. New data indicate that dopamine is released within the brain not only in response to events the organism finds rewarding, but also in response to those that predict rewards, and to stimuli that are simply startling. By underscoring such events, say these researchers, the dopamine signal helps the animal learn to recognize them--and in some cases, to repeat them.