Cognitive deficits are recognized in Parkinson's disease. Understanding cognitive functions mediated by the striatum can clarify some of these impairments and inform treatment strategies. The dorsal striatum, a region impaired in Parkinson's disease, has been implicated in stimulus-response learning. However, most investigations combine acquisition of associations between stimuli, responses, or outcomes (i.e., learning) and expression of learning through response selection and decision enactment, confounding these separate processes. Using neuroimaging, we provide evidence that dorsal striatum does not mediate stimulus-response learning from feedback but rather underlies decision making once associations between stimuli and responses are learned. In the experiment, 11 males and 5 females (mean age 22) learned to associate abstract images to specific button-press responses through feedback in Session 1. In Session 2, they were asked to provide responses learned in Session 1. Feedback was omitted, precluding further feedback-based learning in this session. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, dorsal striatum activation in healthy young participants was observed at the time of response selection and not during feedback, when greatest learning presumably occurs. Moreover, dorsal striatum activity increased across the duration of Session 1, peaking after most associations were well learned, and was significant during Session 2 where no feedback was provided, and therefore no feedback-based learning occurred. Preferential ventral striatum activity occurred during feedback and was maximal early in Session 1. Taken together, the results suggest that the ventral striatum underlies learning associations between stimuli and responses via feedback whereas the dorsal striatum mediates enacting decisions.
Keywords: Decision making; Functional MRI; Parkinson's disease; Stimulus–response learning; Striatum.
Copyright © 2014. Published by Elsevier Inc.