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Neuron. 2016 Oct 5;92(1):93-99. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2016.08.031.

An Upside to Reward Sensitivity: The Hippocampus Supports Enhanced Reinforcement Learning in Adolescence.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA; Department of Psychology, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA. Electronic address: jdavidow@fas.harvard.edu.
2
Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY 10032, USA; New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, NY 10032, USA.
3
Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.
4
Department of Psychology, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA; Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute and Kavli Institute for Brain Science, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA. Electronic address: ds2619@columbia.edu.

Abstract

Adolescents are notorious for engaging in reward-seeking behaviors, a tendency attributed to heightened activity in the brain's reward systems during adolescence. It has been suggested that reward sensitivity in adolescence might be adaptive, but evidence of an adaptive role has been scarce. Using a probabilistic reinforcement learning task combined with reinforcement learning models and fMRI, we found that adolescents showed better reinforcement learning and a stronger link between reinforcement learning and episodic memory for rewarding outcomes. This behavioral benefit was related to heightened prediction error-related BOLD activity in the hippocampus and to stronger functional connectivity between the hippocampus and the striatum at the time of reinforcement. These findings reveal an important role for the hippocampus in reinforcement learning in adolescence and suggest that reward sensitivity in adolescence is related to adaptive differences in how adolescents learn from experience.

PMID:
27710793
DOI:
10.1016/j.neuron.2016.08.031
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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