Associations between neutral stimuli and monetary rewards are strengthened over the course of weeks of learning, according to a human study published in JNeurosci that investigated learning over an extended period of time. The research may have implications for the study of addiction, in which learned associations between drug and reward are acquired gradually.
Studies of reward-based learning in humans typically involve minutes-long training sessions. These experiments contrast with most animal research that involves learning over days or weeks, limiting the translation of this research to humans. In addition, rapid learning tasks are not representative of how people actually develop their preferences over time.
Elliott Wimmer and colleagues found that men and women better retained arbitrary associations between pictures of landscapes and monetary gain when they learned the associations in short sessions spaced out over weeks compared to a single, 20-minute session. The researchers' neuroimaging data reveal that training led to greater engagement of learning-related regions of the brain. each type of learning engaged different parts of the brain. These results provide a starting point for exploring how learned associations that have negative effects on human health and wellbeing, as in addiction, could be unlearned.
Article: Reward learning over weeks versus minutes increases the neural representation of value in the human brain*
Corresponding author: G. Elliott Wimmer (University College London, UK), firstname.lastname@example.org
*A preprint of this manuscript has been posted on bioRxiv.
JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today, the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact, while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.
About The Society for Neuroscience
The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.