Reward, motivation, and reinforcement learning

Neuron. 2002 Oct 10;36(2):285-98. doi: 10.1016/s0896-6273(02)00963-7.


There is substantial evidence that dopamine is involved in reward learning and appetitive conditioning. However, the major reinforcement learning-based theoretical models of classical conditioning (crudely, prediction learning) are actually based on rules designed to explain instrumental conditioning (action learning). Extensive anatomical, pharmacological, and psychological data, particularly concerning the impact of motivational manipulations, show that these models are unreasonable. We review the data and consider the involvement of a rich collection of different neural systems in various aspects of these forms of conditioning. Dopamine plays a pivotal, but complicated, role.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Motivation*
  • Reinforcement, Psychology*
  • Reward*