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Motivation allows us to energise actions when we expect reward and is reduced in depression. This effect, termed motivational vigour, has been proposed to rely on central dopamine, with dopaminergic agents showing promise in the treatment of depression. This suggests that dopaminergic agents might act to reduce depression by increasing the effects of reward or by helping energise actions. The aim of the current study was to investigate whether the dopamine agonist pramipexole enhanced motivational vigour during a rewarded saccade task. In addition, we asked whether the effects of pramipexole on vigour differ between reward contingent on performance and guaranteed reward. Healthy adult participants were randomised to receive either pramipexole (n = 19) or placebo (controls n = 18) for 18 days. The vigour of saccades was measured twice, once before the administration of study medication (Time 1) and after taking it for 12-15 days (Time 2). To separate motivation by contingency vs. reward, saccadic vigour was separately measured when (1) rewards were contingent on performance (2) delivered randomly with matched frequency, (3) when reward was guaranteed, (4) when reward was not present at all. Motivation increased response vigour, as expected. Relative to placebo, pramipexole also increased response vigour. However, there was no interaction, meaning that the effects of reward were not modulated by drug, and there was no differential drug effect on contingent vs. guaranteed rewards. The effect of pramipexole on vigour could not be explained by a speed/accuracy trade-off, nor by autonomic arousal as indexed by pupillary dilation. Chronic D2 stimulation increases general vigour, energising movements in healthy adults irrespective of extrinsic reward.

Original publication




Journal article


Psychopharmacology (Berl)

Publication Date



Dopamine, Eye movement, Eye tracking, Motivation, Pramipexole, Reward, Saccade, Vigour