Discrimination: from behaviour to brain

Behav Processes. 2008 Feb;77(2):285-97. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2007.11.004. Epub 2007 Nov 19.


Discrimination is a skill needed by many organisms for survival: decisions about food, shelter, and mate selection all require the ability to distinguish among stimuli. This article reviews the how and why of discrimination and how researchers may exploit this natural skill in the laboratory to learn more about what features of stimuli animals use to discriminate. The paper then discusses the possible neurophysiological basis of discrimination and proposes a model, based on one of stimulus-association put forth by Beninger and Gerdjikov (2004) [Beninger, R.J., Gerdjikov, T.V., 2004. The role of signaling molecules in reward-related incentive learning. Neurotox. Res., 6, 91-104], to account for the role of dopamine in how an animal learns to discriminate rewarded from non-rewarded stimuli.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology*
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Dopamine / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological*


  • Dopamine