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Neural mechanisms of goal-directed behavior in obtaining appetitive outcomes and avoiding aversive outcomes

Shunsuke Kobayashi
Department of Physiology, Development, and Neuroscience, Cambridge University, UK

Obtaining food and avoiding danger are essential abilities for animals to survive in the wild. While recent studies have advanced our understanding on how appetitive stimuli guide behavior (positive reinforcement mechanism), much less is known about how animals guide behavior to avoid aversive outcomes (negative reinforcement mechanism). The brain might have separate networks to process outcomes of positive and negative values. For instance, midbrain dopamine neurons are selectively sensitive to appetitive events, and they generate activity related to reinforcement learning. On the other hand, mechanisms such as attention might contribute to guiding behavior for both appetitive rewards and aversive avoidance. I will present an overview of neurophysiological studies on the brain areas involved in appetitive and aversive processing. Then I will attempt to provide a scheme of how the brain guides behavior with positive and negative reinforcers.


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