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J Cogn Neurosci. 2012 Aug;24(8):1794-805. doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_00245. Epub 2012 May 23.

Differential brain activity during emotional versus nonemotional reversal learning.

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  • 1University of Southern California, 3715 McClintock Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0191, USA. nashiro@usc.edu


The ability to change an established stimulus-behavior association based on feedback is critical for adaptive social behaviors. This ability has been examined in reversal learning tasks, where participants first learn a stimulus-response association (e.g., select a particular object to get a reward) and then need to alter their response when reinforcement contingencies change. Although substantial evidence demonstrates that the OFC is a critical region for reversal learning, previous studies have not distinguished reversal learning for emotional associations from neutral associations. The current study examined whether OFC plays similar roles in emotional versus neutral reversal learning. The OFC showed greater activity during reversals of stimulus-outcome associations for negative outcomes than for neutral outcomes. Similar OFC activity was also observed during reversals involving positive outcomes. Furthermore, OFC activity is more inversely correlated with amygdala activity during negative reversals than during neutral reversals. Overall, our results indicate that the OFC is more activated by emotional than neutral reversal learning and that OFC's interactions with the amygdala are greater for negative than neutral reversal learning.

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