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Neuropharmacology. 1998 Apr-May;37(4-5):421-9.

Reward prediction in primate basal ganglia and frontal cortex.

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Institute of Physiology and Program in Neuroscience, University of Fribourg, Switzerland.


Reward information is processed in a limited number of brain structures, including fronto-basal ganglia systems. Dopamine neurons respond phasically to primary rewards and reward-predicting stimuli depending on reward unpredictability but without discriminating between rewards. These responses reflect 'errors' in the prediction of rewards in correspondence to learning theories and thus may constitute teaching signals for appetitive learning. Neurons in the striatum (caudate, putamen, ventral striatum) code reward predictions in a different manner. They are activated during several seconds when animals expect predicted rewards. During learning, these activations occur initially in rewarded and unrewarded trials and become subsequently restricted to rewarded trials. This occurs in parallel with the adaptation of reward expectations by the animals, as inferred from their behavioral reactions. Neurons in orbitofrontal cortex respond differentially to stimuli predicting different liquid rewards, without coding spatial or visual features. Thus, different structures process reward information processed in different ways. Whereas dopamine neurons emit a reward teaching signal without indicating the specific reward, striatal neurons adapt expectation activity to new reward situations, and orbitofrontal neurons process the specific nature of rewards. These reward signals need to cooperate in order for reward information to be used for learning and maintaining approach behavior.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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