Neurochemical Bases for Neural Variability

We are interested in linking theories of dopamine (DA)-based neural “precision” (e.g., Ballo et al., 2012; Coull et al., 2012; Friston, 2010) and dynamics to brain signal variability effects. It is an interesting paradox that signal variability often appears functional for healthy neural systems, yet optimal DA function is presumed to generally invoke tighter bounds on temporal coding. We are currently collaborating with various research groups in Europe to investigate how DA agonists, antagonists, and PET-based DA binding potential may relate to working memory- and reinforcement-learning-based brain signal variability in young and older adults. We find that DA agonism increases BOLD variability in older adults (Garrett et al., 2015, PNAS), DA antagonism decreases BOLD variability in younger adults (Garrett et al., in prep.), and DA binding (using PET imaging) correlates with BOLD variability in a regionally-dependent manner (Guitart-Masip et al., 2016, Cerebral Cortex; Garrett et al., in prep.). DA thus continues to be a primary neurochemical target within the LNDG, with our interests recently expanding to include the norepinephrine (e.g., systemic explore/exploit trade-offs) and glutamate/GABA systems (e.g., state-configuration via excitation/inhibition).

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