Principles of Reinforcement (Intersection)

How might you research the connection between dopamine and operant conditioning if you had
some human volunteers who gave informed consent and were found to have lowered levels of this
neurotransmitter? What things might you try in an experiment? Answer: If I had humans to study, I
would first get baseline dopamine levels on all of them. I would include a group with normal
dopamine levels for comparison. I would also get baseline dopamine levels when subjects are
exposed to behavior reinforcers. Then with the subjects who have lowered dopamine levels, I would
try various interventions shown to influence brain chemistry and function: for example, 5
psychological interventions such as cognitive therapy and biological interventions such as drugs. I
would then test post-treatment dopamine levels. If only certain interventions resulted in normalized
dopamine levels in the subjects with initially lower levels, I might also try those same interventions
with the subjects whose levels had not been afiected by other interventions, to see if any
intervention(s) were efiective in all individuals. Finally, I would test the subjects whose dopamine
levels were normalized by treatment, by exposing them to reinforcers again and seeing whether
their responses were like those of the individuals with initially normal levels of dopamine.

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