Welcome to the new version of CaltechAUTHORS. Login is currently restricted to library staff. If you notice any issues, please email coda@library.caltech.edu
Published September 2005 | public
Journal Article

Opponent appetitive-aversive neural processes underlie predictive learning of pain relief


Termination of a painful or unpleasant event can be rewarding. However, whether the brain treats relief in a similar way as it treats natural reward is unclear, and the neural processes that underlie its representation as a motivational goal remain poorly understood. We used fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to investigate how humans learn to generate expectations of pain relief. Using a pavlovian conditioning procedure, we show that subjects experiencing prolonged experimentally induced pain can be conditioned to predict pain relief. This proceeds in a manner consistent with contemporary reward-learning theory (average reward/loss reinforcement learning), reflected by neural activity in the amygdala and midbrain. Furthermore, these reward-like learning signals are mirrored by opposite aversion-like signals in lateral orbitofrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex. This dual coding has parallels to 'opponent process' theories in psychology and promotes a formal account of prediction and expectation during pain.

Additional Information

© 2005 Nature Publishing Group. Received 15 June; accepted 2 August 2005. We wish to thank P. Dayan and N. Daw for many helpful discussions and O. Josephs, B. Johanssen and C. Rickard for technical assistance. This research was funded by The Wellcome Trust.

Additional details

August 19, 2023
October 20, 2023