Causal evidence supporting the proposal that dopamine transients function as temporal difference prediction errors

Nat Neurosci. 2020 Feb;23(2):176-178. doi: 10.1038/s41593-019-0574-1. Epub 2020 Jan 20.


Reward-evoked dopamine transients are well established as prediction errors. However, the central tenet of temporal difference accounts-that similar transients evoked by reward-predictive cues also function as errors-remains untested. In the present communication we addressed this by showing that optogenetically shunting dopamine activity at the start of a reward-predicting cue prevents second-order conditioning without affecting blocking. These results indicate that cue-evoked transients function as temporal-difference prediction errors rather than reward predictions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Association Learning / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Operant / physiology
  • Cues
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Rats, Transgenic
  • Reward


  • Dopamine