The computational neurobiology of learning and reward

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2006 Apr;16(2):199-204. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2006.03.006. Epub 2006 Mar 24.


Following the suggestion that midbrain dopaminergic neurons encode a signal, known as a 'reward prediction error', used by artificial intelligence algorithms for learning to choose advantageous actions, the study of the neural substrates for reward-based learning has been strongly influenced by computational theories. In recent work, such theories have been increasingly integrated into experimental design and analysis. Such hybrid approaches have offered detailed new insights into the function of a number of brain areas, especially the cortex and basal ganglia. In part this is because these approaches enable the study of neural correlates of subjective factors (such as a participant's beliefs about the reward to be received for performing some action) that the computational theories purport to quantify.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Artificial Intelligence*
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Corpus Striatum / physiology
  • Decision Making / physiology
  • Dopamine / physiology
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Neural Networks, Computer*
  • Reward*


  • Dopamine