Neural components underlying behavioral flexibility in human reversal learning.

TitleNeural components underlying behavioral flexibility in human reversal learning.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsGhahremani, DG, Monterosso J, Jentsch DJ, Bilder RM, Poldrack RA
JournalCerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991)
Date Published2010 Aug
KeywordsAdaptation, Psychological, Adolescent, Adult, Association Learning, Biofeedback, Psychology, Brain Mapping, cognition, Dominance, Cerebral, Female, Functional Laterality, Gyrus Cinguli, Humans, Learning, Male, Nerve Net, Prefrontal Cortex, Psychomotor Performance, Reward, Young Adult

The ability to flexibly respond to changes in the environment is critical for adaptive behavior. Reversal learning (RL) procedures test adaptive response updating when contingencies are altered. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine brain areas that support specific RL components. We compared neural responses to RL and initial learning (acquisition) to isolate reversal-related brain activation independent of cognitive control processes invoked during initial feedback-based learning. Lateral orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) was more activated during reversal than acquisition, suggesting its relevance for reformation of established stimulus-response associations. In addition, the dorsal anterior cingulate (dACC) and right inferior frontal gyrus (rIFG) correlated with change in postreversal accuracy. Because optimal RL likely requires suppression of a prior learned response, we hypothesized that similar regions serve both response inhibition (RI) and inhibition of learned associations during reversal. However, reversal-specific responding and stopping (requiring RI and assessed via the stop-signal task) revealed distinct frontal regions. Although RI-related regions do not appear to support inhibition of prepotent learned associations, a subset of these regions, dACC and rIFG, guide actions consistent with current reward contingencies. These regions and lateral OFC represent distinct neural components that support behavioral flexibility important for adaptive learning.

Alternate JournalCereb. Cortex