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WIREs Cogn Sci
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The costs and benefits of brain dopamine for cognitive control

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Cognitive control helps us attain our goals by resisting distraction and temptations. Dopaminergic drugs are well known to enhance cognitive control. However, there is great variability in the effects of dopaminergic drugs across different contexts, with beneficial effects on some tasks but detrimental effects on other tasks. The mechanisms underlying this variability across cognitive task demands remain unclear. I aim to elucidate this across‐task variability in dopaminergic drug efficacy by going beyond classic models that emphasize the importance of dopamine in the prefrontal cortex for cognitive control and working memory. To this end, I build on recent advances in cognitive neuroscience that highlight a role for dopamine in cost–benefit decision making. Specifically, I reconceptualize cognitive control as involving not just prefrontal dopamine but also modulation of cost–benefit decision making by striatal dopamine. This approach will help us understand why we sometimes fail to (choose to) exert cognitive control while also identifying mechanistic factors that predict dopaminergic drug effects on cognitive control. WIREs Cogn Sci 2016, 7:317–329. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1401

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