Two spatiotemporally distinct value systems shape reward-based learning in the human brain

Elsa Fouragnan, Chris Retzler, Karen Mullinger, Marios G. Philiastides

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)
192 Downloads (Pure)


Avoiding repeated mistakes and learning to reinforce rewarding decisions is critical for human survival and adaptive actions. Yet, the neural underpinnings of the value systems that encode different decision-outcomes remain elusive. Here, coupling single-trial EEG with simultaneously acquired fMRI we uncover the spatiotemporal dynamics of two separate but interacting value systems encoding decision-outcomes. Consistent with a role in regulating alertness and switching behaviors, an early system is activated only by negative outcomes and engages arousal-related and motor-preparatory brain structures. Consistent with a role in reward-based learning, a later system differentially suppresses or activates regions of the human reward network in response to negative and positive outcomes, respectively. Following negative outcomes, the early system interacts and down-regulates the late system, through a thalamic interaction with the ventral striatum. Critically, the strength of this coupling predicts
participants’ switching behavior and avoidance learning, directly implicating the thalamostriatal pathway in reward-based learning.
Original languageEnglish
Article number8107
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sep 2015


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