What is it about?

Emotion and decision making are typically thought of as separate psychological processes. This dichotomy has also shaped our thinking about which parts of the brain contribute to reinforcement learning. The amygdala which is conceived as contributing to emotion, is usually not thought to play a role in value guided decision making. However, the present study demonstrates that the amygdala plays an active role in reinforcement learning and decision making, beyond signaling of Pavlovian value or the coordination of emotional responses.

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Why is it important?

This is the first study to directly contrast the roles of the amygdala and ventral striatum in reinforcement learning. It shows that current models of the neural systems that support value-guided decision making need to be revised to include the amygdala. Moreover, it suggests the amygdala might be even more important than the ventral striatum when we learn and make decisions in noisy or uncertain environments.

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This page is a summary of: Amygdala and Ventral Striatum Make Distinct Contributions to Reinforcement Learning, Neuron, October 2016, Elsevier,
DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2016.09.025.
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