Animal studies have found that the phasic activity of dopamine neurons during reward-related learning resembles a "prediction error" (PE) signal derived from a class of computational models called reinforcement learning (RL). An apparently similar signal can be measured using fMRI in the human striatum, a primary dopaminergic target. However, the fMRI signal does not measure dopamine per se, and therefore further evidence is needed to determine if these signals are related to each other. Parkinson's disease (PD) involves the neurodegeneration of the dopamine system and is accompanied by deficits in reward-related decision-making tasks. In the current study we used a computational RL model to assess striatal error signals in PD patients performing an RL task during fMRI scanning. Results show that error signals were preserved in ventral striatum of PD patients, but impaired in dorsolateral striatum, relative to healthy controls, a pattern reflecting the known selective anatomical degeneration of dopamine nuclei in PD. These findings support the notion that PE signals measured in the human striatum by the BOLD signal may reflect phasic DA activity. These results also provide evidence for a deficiency in PE signaling in the dorsolateral striatum of PD patients that may offer an explanation for their deficits observed in other reward learning tasks.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cognitive Neuroscience