Neurochemical specificity of learning: dopamine and motor learning.

Academic Article


  • In previous reports of studies of patients with alcoholic Korsakoff's psychosis, data were presented showing significant correlations between neuropsychometric measures of amnesia and the CSF levels of the major brain metabolite of norepinephrine (NE), which was consistently reduced among a large group of experimental subjects. Dopamine (DA) metabolite concentrations in the CSF of this same patient population were also significantly lowered but to a lesser degree and less consistently than the NE metabolite. CSF levels of the DA metabolite did not correlate with any measures of amnesia but did significantly correlate with performance on the Digit-Symbol Substitution Test (DSST) of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS), which involves psychomotor skill learning. DSST performance did not correlate with CSF levels of the NE metabolite. These findings led to the hypothesis that the acquisition of motor learning skills is related to brain DA activity. In this study, we tested the hypothesis by correlating the ability of a group of Korsakoff patients to learn two different motor tasks (rotary pursuit and mirror tracing) with the concentrations of CSF metabolites of NE, DA, and serotonin. For both tasks, improvement in performance over three daily testing sessions significantly correlated only with the DA metabolite levels. The data are consistent with the hypothesis of a specific role for DA in motor learning.
  • Authors

  • McEntee, WJ
  • Mair, Robert
  • Langlais, PJ
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • March 1987
  • Published In


  • Alcohol Amnestic Disorder
  • Dopamine
  • Homovanillic Acid
  • Humans
  • Hydroxyindoleacetic Acid
  • Learning
  • Male
  • Methoxyhydroxyphenylglycol
  • Motor Skills
  • Start Page

  • 187
  • End Page

  • 193
  • Volume

  • 60
  • Issue

  • 2