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Effort-based decision making is studied using tasks that offer choices between high-effort options leading to more highly valued reinforcers versus low- effort/low-reward options. These tasks have been used to study the involvement of neural systems, including mesolimbic dopamine and related circuits, in effort- related aspects of motivation. Moreover, such tasks are useful as animal models of some of the motivational symptoms that are seen in people with depression, schizophrenia, Parkinsons disease, and other disorders.

The present review will discuss the pharmacology of effort-related decision making and will focus on the use of these tasks for the development of drug treatments for motivational dysfunction. Research has identified pharmacological conditions that can alter effort-based  choice and serve as models for depression-related symptoms (e.g., the vesicular monoamine transport-2 inhibitor tetrabenazine and proinflammatory cytokines). Furthermore, tests of effort-based choice have identified compounds that are particularly useful for stimulating high-effort work output and reversing the deficits induced by tetrabenazine and cytokines.

These studies indicate that drugs that act by facilitating dopamine transmission, are relatively as effective well as at adenosine reversing A2A effort-related antagonists, impairments. Studies of effort-based choice may lead to the identification of drug targets that could be useful for treating motivational treatments that are resistant to commonly used antidepressants such as serotonin transport inhibitors.

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