Category learning in the brain

Annu Rev Neurosci. 2010;33:203-19. doi: 10.1146/annurev.neuro.051508.135546.

Abstract

The ability to group items and events into functional categories is a fundamental characteristic of sophisticated thought. It is subserved by plasticity in many neural systems, including neocortical regions (sensory, prefrontal, parietal, and motor cortex), the medial temporal lobe, the basal ganglia, and midbrain dopaminergic systems. These systems interact during category learning. Corticostriatal loops may mediate recursive, bootstrapping interactions between fast reward-gated plasticity in the basal ganglia and slow reward-shaded plasticity in the cortex. This can provide a balance between acquisition of details of experiences and generalization across them. Interactions between the corticostriatal loops can integrate perceptual, response, and feedback-related aspects of the task and mediate the shift from novice to skilled performance. The basal ganglia and medial temporal lobe interact competitively or cooperatively, depending on the demands of the learning task.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Nerve Net / anatomy & histology*
  • Nerve Net / physiology*