Multiple timescales of memory in lateral habenula and dopamine neurons

Neuron. 2010 Aug 12;67(3):499-510. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2010.06.031.


Midbrain dopamine neurons are thought to signal predictions about future rewards based on the memory of past rewarding experience. Little is known about the source of their reward memory and the factors that control its timescale. Here we recorded from dopamine neurons, as well as one of their sources of input, the lateral habenula, while animals predicted upcoming rewards based on the past reward history. We found that lateral habenula and dopamine neurons accessed two distinct reward memories: a short-timescale memory expressed at the start of the task and a near-optimal long-timescale memory expressed when a future reward outcome was revealed. The short- and long-timescale memories were expressed in different forms of reward-oriented eye movements. Our data show that the habenula-dopamine pathway contains multiple timescales of memory and provide evidence for their role in motivated behavior.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dopamine / physiology*
  • Habenula / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reward
  • Time Factors


  • Dopamine