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Annu Rev Neurosci. 2012;35:287-308. doi: 10.1146/annurev-neuro-062111-150512. Epub 2012 Mar 29.

Neural basis of reinforcement learning and decision making.

Author information

1
Department of Neurobiology, Kavli Institute for Neuroscience, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06510, USA. daeyeol.lee@yale.edu

Abstract

Reinforcement learning is an adaptive process in which an animal utilizes its previous experience to improve the outcomes of future choices. Computational theories of reinforcement learning play a central role in the newly emerging areas of neuroeconomics and decision neuroscience. In this framework, actions are chosen according to their value functions, which describe how much future reward is expected from each action. Value functions can be adjusted not only through reward and penalty, but also by the animal's knowledge of its current environment. Studies have revealed that a large proportion of the brain is involved in representing and updating value functions and using them to choose an action. However, how the nature of a behavioral task affects the neural mechanisms of reinforcement learning remains incompletely understood. Future studies should uncover the principles by which different computational elements of reinforcement learning are dynamically coordinated across the entire brain.

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