Neuroscience

Cost and outcome shape habit

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Science  18 Sep 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6254, pp. 1297-1298
DOI: 10.1126/science.349.6254.1297-b

When rodents or monkeys perform a learned task, neurons in the striatum are active right before and after the performance. Their activity is thought to encode expected and experienced cost and outcome. These signals may be disrupted in Parkinson's disease, manifesting as problems with the initiation of movements. Desrochers et al. asked whether these neurons participate in the formation of habits in naïve monkeys. They therefore measured activity in the striatum while monkeys learned to solve a visual task without instructions (“self-learning”). They found that before-and-after signals existed from the start and that a combination of cost and outcome signals afterward increased when monkeys got into the habit, and their performance improved.

Neuron 87, 853, 10.1016/j. neuron.2015.07.019 (2015).

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