Neurotransmitters and Novelty: A Systematic Review

Mauricio Rangel-Gomez*, Martijn Meeter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Our brains are highly responsive to novelty. However, how novelty is processed in the brain, and what neurotransmitter systems play a role therein, remains elusive. Here, we systematically review studies on human participants that have looked at the neuromodulatory basis of novelty detection and processing. While theoretical models and studies on nonhuman animals have pointed to a role of the dopaminergic, cholinergic, noradrenergic and serotonergic systems, the human literature has focused almost exclusively on the first two. Dopamine was found to affect electrophysiological responses to novelty early in time after stimulus presentation, but evidence on its effects on later processing was found to be contradictory: While neuropharmacological studies mostly yielded null effects, gene studies did point to an important role for dopamine. Acetylcholine seems to dampen novelty signals in the medial temporal lobe, but boost them in frontal cortex. Findings on 5-HT (serotonin) were found to be mostly contradictory. Two large gaps were identified in the literature. First, few studies have looked at neuromodulatory influences on behavioral effects of novelty. Second, no study has looked at the involvement of the noradrenergic system in novelty processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-12
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Psychopharmacology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


  • acetylcholine
  • dopamine
  • norepinephrine
  • Novelty
  • review
  • serotonin
  • systematic


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