Human large-scale oscillatory brain activity during an operant shaping procedure

Brain Res Cogn Brain Res. 2001 Dec;12(3):397-407. doi: 10.1016/s0926-6410(01)00094-5.


The present study aimed at examining the oscillatory brain-electric correlates of human operant learning using high-density electroencephalography (EEG). Induced gamma-band activity (GBA) was studied using a fixed-interval reinforcement schedule with a variable limited hold period, which was decreased depending on response accuracy. Thus, participants' behavior was shaped during the course of the learning session. After each response, numbers indicating the money value of that response served as reinforcing stimuli. Random reinforcement and self-paced button pressing without reinforcement were added as control conditions. GBA around 40 Hz was enhanced at posterior electrodes in response to visual feedback stimuli during shaping and random reward compared to the self-paced pressing condition where no visual feedback was provided. Furthermore, shaping was associated with a pronounced left frontal lower gamma (20-30 Hz) increase in response to feedback stimuli, whereas this pattern was not observed in the random reinforcement and self-paced pressing conditions. The present findings are in line with the notion that macroscopic high-frequency dynamics of neuronal cell assemblies may be regarded as a mechanism involved in learning and memory formation.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Operant / physiology*
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reinforcement Schedule
  • Visual Cortex / physiology