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Nat Neurosci. 2002 Feb;5(2):97-8.

Activity in human ventral striatum locked to errors of reward prediction.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia 30322, USA.


The mesolimbic dopaminergic system has long been known to be involved in the processing of rewarding stimuli, although recent evidence from animal research has suggested a more specific role of signaling errors in the prediction of rewards. We tested this hypothesis in humans, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and an operant conditioning paradigm for the discrete delivery of small quantities of fruit juice, along with a control experiment in which juice was substituted with a neutral visual stimulus. A local estimation of the activity in the ventral striatum showed a significant differentiation when the juice was withheld at the expected time of delivery; this finding was not replicated in the case of visual stimulation, providing evidence for time-locked processing of reward prediction errors in human ventral striatum.

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