The Introduction provides a brief overview of the book. The central theme is dopamine-mediated reward-related incentive learning—the acquisition by neutral stimuli of an increased ability to elicit approach and other responses. The brain has multiple memory systems defined as “declarative” and “non-declarative”; incentive learning produces one form of non-declarative memory. Once incentive learning is established it is gradually lost when the rewarding stimulus is no longer available or when dopamine function is reduced. Decreases in dopaminergic neurotransmission may produce inverse incentive learning—the loss by stimuli of their ability to elicit approach and other responses. Dopamine-related diseases including schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and drug abuse involve altered incentive learning. Incentive and inverse incentive learning may occur by the actions of dopamine, adenosine, and endocannabinoids at dendritic spines of striatal medium spiny neurons that have had recent glutamate input. Activity in dopaminergic neurons in humans appears to affect mental experience.
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