Neural correlates of response reversal: Considering acquisition

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Abstract

Previous work on response reversal has typically used a single pair of stimuli that serially reverse. This conflation of acquisition and reversal processes has prevented an examination of the functional role of neural systems implicated in response reversal during acquisition despite the relevance of such data in evaluating accounts of response reversal. In the current study, participants encountered 16 independent reversing stimulus pairs in the context of a probabilistic response reversal paradigm. Functional regions of interest identified as involved in response reversal through a contrast used in the previous literature (punished errors made in the reversal phase versus rewarded correct responses), were interrogated across conditions. Consistent with suggestions that middle frontal cortex codes reward, this region showed significantly greater responses to rewarded rather than punished trials irrespective of accuracy or learning phase (acquisition or reversal). Consistent with the suggestion that this coding of the expectation of reinforcement is acquired via input from the amygdala, we observed significant positive connectivity between activity within the amygdala and a region of rostral anterior cingulate cortex highly proximal to this region of middle frontal/mesial prefrontal cortex. In contrast, inferior frontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex and caudate showed greater responses to punished errors than to the rewarded correct responses. These three regions also showed significant activation torewarded errorsduringacquisition, in contrast to positions suggesting that inferior frontal cortex represents punishment or suppresses previously rewarded responses. Moreover, a connectivity analysis with an anterior cingulate cortex seed revealed highly significant positive connectivity among them. The implications of these data for recent accounts of response reversal and of response reversal impairments in specific neuropsychiatric populations are discussed.

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