Jakob Kisby Dreyer

Center for Neuroscience, University of Copenhagen

Swiss army knife model of dopamine signaling

Dopamine is a neuromodulator and is closely linked to attention, reward processing and motor function. Deficits in dopamine signaling can lead to drug abuse, and a wide range of brain disorders including ADHD, schizophrenia, and Parkinson's disease. Cell bodies of dopamine neurons reside in the mid-brain from where they project to multiple areas including the striatum where the dopamine signal is integrated by major classes of neurons via dopamine D1 or D2 receptors. Although the firing patterns of dopamine neurons are widely investigated, the link between dopamine cell activity and activation of these post synaptic targets cannot be observed in real-time.

Here I use mathematical and computational modeling to provide a working model of the dopamine signal. The model shows how dopamine cell firing combines with anatomy and physiology to provide a functional reward signal that provides a high fidelity read-off by D1 and D2 receptors. The models provide key insight into how this signal is influenced by drugs of abuse like cocaine and how it is degraded in Parkinson’s disease