Dopaminergic modulation of reward discounting in healthy rats: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Journal Article (Systematic Review;Journal Article)


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 1343 articles to screen for inclusion/exclusion. From the literature, we identified 117 effects from approximately 1549 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-like and D2-like 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.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Castrellon, JJ; Meade, J; Greenwald, L; Hurst, K; Samanez-Larkin, GR

Published Date

  • March 2021

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 238 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 711 - 723

PubMed ID

  • 33215269

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1432-2072

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0033-3158

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1007/s00213-020-05723-5


  • eng