The many facets of dopamine: Toward an integrative theory of the role of dopamine in managing the body's energy resources

Srinivasa Chakravarthy*, Pragathi Priyadharsini Balasubramani, Alekhya Mandali, Marjan Jahanshahi, Ahmed A. Moustafa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)
57 Downloads (Pure)


In neuroscience literature, dopamine is often considered as a pleasure chemical of the brain. Dopaminergic neurons respond to rewarding stimuli which include primary rewards like opioids or food, or more abstract forms of reward like cash rewards or pictures of pretty faces. It is this reward-related aspect of dopamine, particularly its association with reward prediction error, that is highlighted by a large class of computational models of dopamine signaling. Dopamine is also a neuromodulator, controlling synaptic plasticity in several cortical and subcortical areas. But dopamine's influence is not limited to the nervous system; its effects are also found in other physiological systems, particularly the circulatory system. Importantly, dopamine agonists have been used as a drug to control blood pressure. Is there a theoretical, conceptual connection that reconciles dopamine's effects in the nervous system with those in the circulatory system? This perspective article integrates the diverse physiological roles of dopamine and provides a simple theoretical framework arguing that its reward related function regulates the processes of energy consumption and acquisition in the body. We conclude by suggesting that energy-related book-keeping of the body at the physiological level is the common motif that links the many facets of dopamine and its functions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-141
Number of pages14
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2018
Externally publishedYes


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