Dopamine neurons of the ventral midbrain are activated transiently following stimuli that predict future reward. This response has been shown to signal the expected value of future reward, and there is strong evidence that it drives positive reinforcement of stimuli and actions associated with reward in accord with reinforcement learning models. Behavior is also influenced by reward uncertainty, or risk, but it is not known whether the transient response of dopamine neurons is sensitive to reward risk. To investigate this, monkeys were trained to associate distinct visual stimuli with certain or uncertain volumes of juice of nearly the same expected value. In a choice task, monkeys preferred the stimulus predicting an uncertain (risky) reward outcome. In a Pavlovian task, in which the neuronal responses to each stimulus could be measured in isolation, it was found that dopamine neurons were more strongly activated by the stimulus associated with reward risk. Given extensive evidence that dopamine drives reinforcement, these results strongly suggest that dopamine neurons can reinforce risk-seeking behavior (gambling), at least under certain conditions. Risk-seeking behavior has the virtue of promoting exploration and learning, and these results support the hypothesis that dopamine neurons represent the value of exploration. (C) 2011 IBRO. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.