Declarative or episodic memory systems based in the hippocampus and medial temporal lobes are specialized for rapid reorientation to new contexts, supporting appropriately rapid shifts in behavior. Surprisingly, the potential for leveraging these mechanisms in cognitive therapy remains untapped. We have demonstrated that increased fMRI activation of declarative memory systems together with dopaminergic midbrain during reward anticipation correlates with memory encoding for upcoming experience. Our findings suggest a method and mechanism for using """"""""behavioral neurostimulation"""""""" of dopaminergic systems to prime the hippocampus for learning. This approach contrasts with conventional paradigms in psychopharmacology where the goal is chronic equilibrium of neuromodulatory systems. Here, the adjustment is explicitly targeted to the period of learning. We propose three series of experiments designed to 1) to test the existence of a causal relationship between mesolimbic activation per se and memory encoding success using real-time fMRI;2) to demonstrate the suitability of this phenomenon to clinical interventions;and 3) determine long-term effects on behavior from the impact of a single salient episode in a therapeutic session. We expect these studies to provide a foundation for using cognitive and behavioral regulation of dopamine systems to prepare the brain for adaptive learning.

Public Health Relevance

We propose to enhance learning during cognitive therapy by increasing the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter known to enhance learning and new memory formation, during the specific time period of a cognitive therapy session. We plan to stimulate dopamine systems behaviorally, prior to therapy. We expect these studies to guide the development of non-drug, individually tailored treatments to enhance learning-based therapies in psychiatry.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZMH1-ERB-L (04))
Program Officer
Rumsey, Judith M
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Duke University
Other Basic Sciences
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
Zip Code
MacDuffie, Katherine E; MacInnes, Jeff; Dickerson, Kathryn C et al. (2018) Single session real-time fMRI neurofeedback has a lasting impact on cognitive behavioral therapy strategies. Neuroimage Clin 19:868-875
Murty, Vishnu P; Ballard, Ian C; Adcock, R Alison (2017) Hippocampus and Prefrontal Cortex Predict Distinct Timescales of Activation in the Human Ventral Tegmental Area. Cereb Cortex 27:1660-1669
MacInnes, Jeff J; Dickerson, Kathryn C; Chen, Nan-Kuei et al. (2016) Cognitive Neurostimulation: Learning to Volitionally Sustain Ventral Tegmental Area Activation. Neuron 89:1331-1342
Murty, Vishnu P; Shermohammed, Maheen; Smith, David V et al. (2014) Resting state networks distinguish human ventral tegmental area from substantia nigra. Neuroimage 100:580-9
Murty, Vishnu P; Adcock, R Alison (2014) Enriched encoding: reward motivation organizes cortical networks for hippocampal detection of unexpected events. Cereb Cortex 24:2160-8
Murty, Vishnu P; Ballard, Ian C; Macduffie, Katherine E et al. (2013) Hippocampal networks habituate as novelty accumulates. Learn Mem 20:229-35