Neural substrates of appetitive and aversive prediction error

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2021 Apr:123:337-351. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2020.10.029. Epub 2021 Jan 13.


Prediction error, defined by the discrepancy between real and expected outcomes, lies at the core of associative learning. Behavioural investigations have provided evidence that prediction error up- and down-regulates associative relationships, and allocates attention to stimuli to enable learning. These behavioural advances have recently been followed by investigations into the neurobiological substrates of prediction error. In the present paper, we review neuroscience data obtained using causal and recording neural methods from a variety of key behavioural designs. We explore the neurobiology of both appetitive (reward) and aversive (fear) prediction error with a focus on the mesolimbic dopamine system, the amygdala, ventrolateral periaqueductal gray, hippocampus, cortex and locus coeruleus noradrenaline. New questions and avenues for research are considered.

Keywords: Amygdala; Attention; Dopamine; Fear; Learning; Noradrenaline; Opioids; Periaqueductal gray; Reward.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetitive Behavior
  • Brain
  • Conditioning, Classical*
  • Fear
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Reward*