Contrast enhancement: A physiological effect of striatal dopamine?

Saleem M. Nicola, F. Woodward Hopf, Gregory O. Hjelmstad

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Dopamine functions as an important neuromodulator in the dorsal striatum and ventral striatum/nucleus accumbens. Evidence is accumulating for the idea that striatal neurons compete with each other for control over the animal's motor resources, and that dopamine plays an important modulatory role that allows a particular subset of neurons, encoding a specific behavior, to predominate in this competition. One means by which dopamine could facilitate selection among competing neurons is to enhance the contrast between stronger and weaker excitations (or to increase the "signal to noise ratio" among neurons, where the firing of the most excited neurons is assumed to transmit signal and the firing of the least excited to transmit noise). Here, we review the electrophysiological evidence for this hypothesis and discuss potential cellular mechanisms by which dopamine-mediated contrast enhancement could occur.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-106
Number of pages14
JournalCell and Tissue Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Basal ganglia
  • Drug abuse
  • Electrophysiology
  • Synaptic plasticity
  • Synaptic transmission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Histology
  • Cell Biology


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