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Is Avoiding an Aversive Outcome Rewarding? Neural Substrates of Avoidance Learning in the Human Brain

Kim, Hackjin and Shimojo, Shinsuke and O'Doherty, John P. (2006) Is Avoiding an Aversive Outcome Rewarding? Neural Substrates of Avoidance Learning in the Human Brain. PLoS Biology, 4 (8). pp. 1453-1461. ISSN 1544-9173. PMCID PMC1484497.

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Avoidance learning poses a challenge for reinforcement-based theories of instrumental conditioning, because once an aversive outcome is successfully avoided an individual may no longer experience extrinsic reinforcement for their behavior. One possible account for this is to propose that avoiding an aversive outcome is in itself a reward, and thus avoidance behavior is positively reinforced on each trial when the aversive outcome is successfully avoided. In the present study we aimed to test this possibility by determining whether avoidance of an aversive outcome recruits the same neural circuitry as that elicited by a reward itself. We scanned 16 human participants with functional MRI while they performed an instrumental choice task, in which on each trial they chose from one of two actions in order to either win money or else avoid losing money. Neural activity in a region previously implicated in encoding stimulus reward value, the medial orbitofrontal cortex, was found to increase, not only following receipt of reward, but also following successful avoidance of an aversive outcome. This neural signal may itself act as an intrinsic reward, thereby serving to reinforce actions during instrumental avoidance.

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O'Doherty, John P.0000-0003-0016-3531
Additional Information:© 2006 Kim et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Received: December 16, 2005; Accepted: May 11, 2006; Published: July 4, 2006 Funding. This research was supported by the Gimbel Discovery Fund for neuroscience (HK and JPOD), and by JST.ERATO (HK and SS). We thank Ralph Adolphs and Colin Camerer for insightful discussions and feedback on the manuscript, Alan Hampton for assistance in the analysis of the fMRI data, and Steve Flaherty for assistance in acquiring fMRI data. Author contributions. HK, SS, and JPOD conceived and designed the experiments. HK performed the experiments. HK and JPOD analyzed the data. HK, SS, and JPOD contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools. HK and JPOD wrote the paper. Competing interests. The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
Issue or Number:8
PubMed Central ID:PMC1484497
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:KIMplosbio06
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Official Citation:Kim H, Shimojo S, O'Doherty JP (2006) Is Avoiding an Aversive Outcome Rewarding? Neural Substrates of Avoidance Learning in the Human Brain. PLoS Biol 4(8): e233
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:4548
Deposited By: Archive Administrator
Deposited On:28 Aug 2006
Last Modified:25 Oct 2019 18:23

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