Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Learning from Experience

Brain cells associated with behaviours reinforced by punishment identified

08 October 2020

Learning from Experience

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. How do we learn to avoid repeating negative experiences, while seeking to replicate the rewards from positive ones? A recent study suggests that one area of the brain may help us with both. Neuroscientists studied neurons in the mouse striosome, a region of the brain that's traditionally thought to help mammals learn from positive experiences and seek rewards. However, they found that some neurons in the striosome (shown here in yellow/green) were responsible for mice avoiding scenarios that had previously yielded negative experiences. This discovery that striosome neurons motivate mice (and possibly humans) both to seek rewards and avoid punishment reveals the potential complexity of this structure. Digging deeper into its role in motivation and learning could help to us better understand how depression or addiction impair our ability to learn from our experiences.

Written by Gaëlle Coullon

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