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Publication - Dr Liz Coulthard

    Levodopa does not affect expression of reinforcement learning in older adults


    Grogan, JP, Isotalus, HK, Howat, A, Izagirre, NI, Knight, LE & Coulthard, EJ, 2019, ‘Levodopa does not affect expression of reinforcement learning in older adults’. Scientific Reports, vol 9., pp. 6349


    Dopamine has been implicated in learning from rewards and punishment, and in the expression of this learning. However, many studies do not fully separate retrieval and decision mechanisms from learning and consolidation. Here, we investigated the effects of levodopa (dopamine precursor) on choice performance (isolated from learning or consolidation). We gave 31 healthy older adults 150mg of levodopa or placebo (doubleblinded, randomised) 1 hour before testing them on stimuli they had learned the value of the previous day. We found that levodopa did not affect the overall accuracy of choices, nor therelative expression of positively or negatively reinforced values. This contradicts several studies and suggests that overall dopamine levels may not play a role in the choice performance for values learned through reinforcement learning in older adults.

    Full details in the University publications repository