DAT1 Polymorphism Determines L-DOPA Effects on Learning about Others' Prosociality

  • Eisenegger C
  • Pedroni A
  • Rieskamp J
 et al. 
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Despite that a wealth of evidence links striatal dopamine to individualś reward learning performance in non-social environments, the neurochemical underpinnings of such learning during social interaction are unknown. Here, we show that the administration of 300 mg of the dopamine precursor L-DOPA to 200 healthy male subjects influences learning about a partners' prosocial preferences in a novel social interaction task, which is akin to a repeated trust game. We found learning to be modulated by a well-established genetic marker of striatal dopamine levels, the 40-bp variable number tandem repeats polymorphism of the dopamine transporter (DAT1 polymorphism). In particular, we found that L-DOPA improves learning in 10/10R genoype subjects, who are assumed to have lower endogenous striatal dopamine levels and impairs learning in 9/10R genotype subjects, who are assumed to have higher endogenous dopamine levels. These findings provide first evidence for a critical role of dopamine in learning whether an interaction partner has a prosocial or a selfish personality. The applied pharmacogenetic approach may open doors to new ways of studying psychiatric disorders such as psychosis, which is characterized by distorted perceptions of others' prosocial attitudes.

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