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Neuropsychologia. 2012 Jul;50(9):2176-86. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2012.05.021. Epub 2012 May 31.

Probabilistic classification learning with corrective feedback is selectively impaired in early Huntington's disease--evidence for the role of the striatum in learning with feedback.

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  • 1Sobell Department of Motor Neuroscience and Movement Disorders, UCL, Institute of Neurology, Queen Square, London, WC1N3BG, United Kingdom.


In general, declarative learning is associated with the activation of the medial temporal lobes (MTL), while the basal ganglia (BG) are considered the substrate for procedural learning. More recently it has been demonstrated the distinction of these systems may not be as absolute as previously thought and that not only the explicit or implicit nature of the memory task alone is important for the distinction of MTL or BG systems. Nevertheless, patients with BG dysfunction - such as patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) or Huntington's disease (HD) - are considered to be impaired at implicit learning. However, a more recent study demonstrated that one implicit learning task, probabilistic classification learning (examples include the weather prediction (WPT) and Mr. Potato Head tasks) is only impaired in PD when it involves learning with corrective feedback (FB) but not when it involves learning in a paired associate (PA) manner, without feedback. Therefore, it has been argued that the presence of feedback rather than the implicit nature of these tasks determines whether or not the BG are recruited. As patients with HD as well as those with PD, have also been shown to be impaired on the standard FB based version of probabilistic classification learning, the question remains as to whether or not there is a similar selective deficit in FB but not PA based probabilistic classification learning in HD. 18 patients with early HD and 18 healthy controls completed FB and PA versions of the WPT task. Relative to controls, HD patients were selectively impaired at WPT learning with feedback. These findings are consistent with previous evidence from studies of probabilistic classification learning in PD. Unlike PD, selective deficits in WPT learning in HD cannot be attributed to the effects of dopaminergic medication and must be directly related to BG dysfunction; for instance even in early HD, only 50% of the neurons in the medial head of caudate remain. We conclude that the striatum is important for WPT learning with feedback. Our findings are consistent with imaging evidence showing recruitment of the caudate during FB based WPT learning, while the MTL is associated with PA based learning.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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