The role of high-frequency oscillatory activity in reward processing and learning

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2015 Feb:49:1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2014.11.014. Epub 2014 Nov 25.


Oscillatory activity has been proposed as a key mechanism in the integration of brain activity of distant structures. Particularly, high frequency brain oscillatory activity in the beta and gamma range has received increasing interest in the domains of attention and memory. In addition, a number of recent studies have revealed an increase of beta-gamma activity (20-35 Hz) after unexpected or relevant positive reward outcomes. In the present manuscript we review the literature on this phenomenon and we propose that this activity is a brain signature elicited by unexpected positive outcomes in order to transmit a fast motivational value signal to the reward network. In addition, we hypothesize that beta-gamma oscillatory activity indexes the interaction between attentional and emotional systems, and that it directly reflects the appearance of unexpected positive rewards in learning-related contexts.

Keywords: Beta; Gamma; Novelty; Oscillatory activity; Reward.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology
  • Beta Rhythm*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Gamma Rhythm*
  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology
  • Motivation / physiology
  • Reward*