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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2008;32(2):219-36. Epub 2007 Aug 10.

Basal ganglia and dopamine contributions to probabilistic category learning.

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Department of Psychology, 386 Schermerhorn Hall, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA. <>


Studies of the medial temporal lobe and basal ganglia memory systems have recently been extended towards understanding the neural systems contributing to category learning. The basal ganglia, in particular, have been linked to probabilistic category learning in humans. A separate parallel literature in systems neuroscience has emerged, indicating a role for the basal ganglia and related dopamine inputs in reward prediction and feedback processing. Here, we review behavioral, neuropsychological, functional neuroimaging, and computational studies of basal ganglia and dopamine contributions to learning in humans. Collectively, these studies implicate the basal ganglia in incremental, feedback-based learning that involves integrating information across multiple experiences. The medial temporal lobes, by contrast, contribute to rapid encoding of relations between stimuli and support flexible generalization of learning to novel contexts and stimuli. By breaking down our understanding of the cognitive and neural mechanisms contributing to different aspects of learning, recent studies are providing insight into how, and when, these different processes support learning, how they may interact with each other, and the consequence of different forms of learning for the representation of knowledge.

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