Laboratory of Neuropsychology, NIMH/NIH/DHHS, USA
Thursday 4 May 2006
Seminar Room B10 (Basement)
Alexandra House, 17 Queen Square, London, WC1N 3AR
Deciding whether it is worth the effort
Individuals are constantly faced with deciding whether the work they must do is worth the goal or reward they can earn. We have studied this issue in monkeys. Monkeys exhibit behaviors, that appear without training or instruction, and are sensitive to both reward parameters, and parameters making reward acquisition burdensome, such as working or waiting. It appears that a few basic parameters characterize individual reactions to the work/reward relation. In brain regions that are rich in dopamine, the neural signals that are related to the tasks we use, and the characteristics of these signals change, often dramatically, across directly connected brain regions. We can show that dopamine is critical for learning to associate environmental cues with rewards.