The functional role of dopamine has attracted a great deal of interest ever since it was empirically discovered that dopamine-blocking drugs could be used to treat psychosis. Specifically, the D2 receptor and its expression in the ventral striatum have emerged as pivotal in our understanding of the complex role of the neuromodulator in schizophrenia, reward, and motivation. Our departure from the ubiquitous temporal difference (TD) model of dopamine neuron firing allows us to account for a range of experimental evidence suggesting that ventral striatal dopamine D2 receptor manipulation selectively modulates motivated behavior for distal versus proximal outcomes. Whether an internal model or the TD approach (or a mixture) is better suited to a comprehensive exposition of tonic and phasic dopamine will have important implications for our understanding of reward, motivation, schizophrenia, and impulsivity. We also use the model to help unite some of the leading cognitive hypotheses of dopamine function under a computational umbrella. We have used the model ourselves to stimulate and focus new rounds of experimental research.

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