Primate ventral striatum maintains neural representations of the value of previously rewarded objects for habitual seeking

Journal: Nature Communications

Published: 2021-04-08

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-22335-5

Affiliations: 4

Authors: 6

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Research Highlight

Neurons found to control habitual behaviours

© KATERYNA KON/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

© KATERYNA KON/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

A part of the brain processes and retains the types of long-term memories that guide habitual behaviours. The finding could aid in the search for new treatments of drug addiction.

A small cluster of neurons in the brain, known as the ventral striatum, plays a critical role in the learning process when it comes to reward evaluation. But it was unknown if the structure was also involved in maintaining such memories.

To find out, a team that included researchers from the Institute for Basic Science in South Korea tracked brain activity in people and monkeys before, during and after they played a game with rewarding feedback — a model of habitual seeking behaviour.

They found that the ventral striatum stayed active in response to previously rewarding visual stimuli, even after no immediate reward was offered. This finding is consistent with the idea that the brain structure automatically evaluates sensory information and uses past experience to guide habitual behaviour.

Supported content

  1. Nature Communications 12, 2100 (2021). doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-22335-5
Institutions Share
Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), South Korea 0.33
Institute for Basic Science (IBS), South Korea 0.33
Seoul National University (SNU), South Korea 0.33

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