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Behav Neurosci. 2004 Aug;118(4):676-86.

Role of the basal ganglia in category learning: how do patients with Parkinson's disease learn?

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  • 1Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, NJ, USA.


The purpose of the present study was to gain a deeper understanding of the role of the basal ganglia in learning and memory by examining learning strategies among patients with basal ganglia dysfunction. Using a probabilistic category learning task (the "weather prediction" task) previously shown to be sensitive to basal ganglia function, the authors examined patterns of performance during learning and used mathematical models to capture different learning strategies. Results showed that patients with Parkinson's disease exhibit different patterns of strategy use. Specifically, most controls initially used a simple, but suboptimal, strategy that focused on single-cue-outcome associations; eventually, however, most controls adopted a more complex, optimal learning strategy, integrating single-cue associations to predict outcomes for multiple-cue stimuli. In contrast, the majority of individuals with Parkinson's disease continued to rely on simple single-cue learning strategies throughout the experiment.

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