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J Neurosci. 2005 Mar 16;25(11):2941-51.

The roles of the caudate nucleus in human classification learning.

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Department of Psychology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523, USA.


The caudate nucleus is commonly active when learning relationships between stimuli and responses or categories. Previous research has not differentiated between the contributions to learning in the caudate and its contributions to executive functions such as feedback processing. We used event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging while participants learned to categorize visual stimuli as predicting "rain" or "sun." In each trial, participants viewed a stimulus, indicated their prediction via a button press, and then received feedback. Conditions were defined on the bases of stimulus-outcome contingency (deterministic, probabilistic, and random) and feedback (negative and positive). A region of interest analysis was used to examine activity in the head of the caudate, body/tail of the caudate, and putamen. Activity associated with successful learning was localized in the body and tail of the caudate and putamen; this activity increased as the stimulus-outcome contingencies were learned. In contrast, activity in the head of the caudate and ventral striatum was associated most strongly with processing feedback and decreased across trials. The left superior frontal gyrus was more active for deterministic than probabilistic stimuli; conversely, extrastriate visual areas were more active for probabilistic than deterministic stimuli. Overall, hippocampal activity was associated with receiving positive feedback but not with correct classification. Successful learning correlated positively with activity in the body and tail of the caudate nucleus and negatively with activity in the hippocampus.

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