Dopamine and learning I

One of the most important aspects of dopamine function is learning. Researchers believe that dopamine neurons change their activity when expectations about reward do not match the reality, signalling a ‘reward prediction error’ that drives learning. For instance, dopamine neurons are activated by unanticipated rewards, but they are suppressed when expected rewards fail to materialise.

Events followed by increases in dopamine activation become associated with reward, and those that are followed by decreases are linked with disappointment.

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