RATIONALE: Conscious perception is thought to depend on global amplification of sensory input. In recent years, striatal dopamine has been proposed to be involved in gating information and conscious access, due to its modulatory influence on thalamocortical connectivity.
OBJECTIVES: Since much of the evidence that implicates striatal dopamine is correlational, we conducted a double-blind crossover pharmacological study in which we administered cabergoline-a dopamine D2 agonist-and placebo to 30 healthy participants. Under both conditions, we subjected participants to several well-established experimental conscious-perception paradigms, such as backward masking and the attentional blink task.
RESULTS: We found no evidence in support of an effect of cabergoline on conscious perception: key behavioral and event-related potential (ERP) findings associated with each of these tasks were unaffected by cabergoline.
CONCLUSIONS: Our results cast doubt on a causal role for dopamine in visual perception. It remains an open possibility that dopamine has causal effects in other tasks, perhaps where perceptual uncertainty is more prominent.