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Quattrocchi, Graziella; Monaco, Jessica; Ho, Andy; Irmen, Friederike; Strube, Wolfgang; Ruge, Diane; Bestmann, Sven; Galea, Joseph M. (2018): Pharmacological Dopamine Manipulation Does Not Alter Reward-Based Improvements in Memory Retention during a Visuomotor Adaptation Task. In: Eneuro, Vol. 5, No. 3
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Motor adaptation tasks investigate our ability to adjust motor behaviors to an ever-changing and unpredictable world. Previous work has shown that punishment-based feedback delivered during a visuomotor adaptation task enhances error-reduction, whereas reward increases memory retention. While the neural underpinnings of the influence of punishment on the adaptation phase remain unclear, reward has been hypothesized to increase retention through dopaminergic mechanisms. We directly tested this hypothesis through pharmacological manipulation of the dopaminergic system. A total of 96 young healthy human participants were tested in a placebo-controlled double-blind between-subjects design in which they adapted to a 40 degrees visuomotor rotation under reward or punishment conditions. We confirmed previous evidence that reward enhances retention, but the dopamine (DA) precursor levodopa (LD) or the DA antagonist haloperidol failed to influence performance. We reason that such a negative result could be due to experimental limitations or it may suggest that the effect of reward on motor memory retention is not driven by dopaminergic processes. This provides further insight regarding the role of motivational feedback in optimizing motor learning, and the basis for further decomposing the effect of reward on the subprocesses known to underlie motor adaptation paradigms.