Unlearning reward responses

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Science  23 Apr 2021:
Vol. 372, Issue 6540, pp. 357-358
DOI: 10.1126/science.372.6540.357-d

We continually update associations between new stimuli and behavioral responses, but this also requires that old information is subject to a complementary process called extinction learning. We do not fully understand whether this means that an old response is suppressed before a new one can be established, or if a new behavior has to compete with old associations. The rodent medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) is involved in extinguishing reward-seeking behavior. By means of mPFC recordings, Russo et al. examined the temporal relation between neural activity and behavior in response to alcohol. Even when experimental conditions and behavioral responses were stable, recordings in the mPFC were not. However, shortly before the previously learned reward memory was suppressed, the authors found that changes in mPFC activity were highly coordinated across the whole reward network. This pushed the network into a new internal state that drove the extinction of the previous reward-seeking behavior.

J. Neurosci. 41, 2406 (2021).

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