Marc Guitart-Masip, Lluis Fuentemilla, Dominik R. Bach, Quentin J. M. Huys, Peter Dayan, Raymond J. Dolan, and Emrah Duzel
J. Neurosci. 2011;31 7867-7875
The acquisition of reward and the avoidance of punishment could logically be contingent on either emitting or withholding particular actions. However, the separate pathways in the striatum for go and no-go appear to violate this independence, instead coupling affect and effect. Respect for this interdependence has biased many studies of reward and punishment, so potential action?outcome valence interactions during anticipatory phases remain unexplored. In a functional magnetic resonance imaging study with healthy human volunteers, we manipulated subjects' requirement to emit or withhold an action independent from subsequent receipt of reward or avoidance of punishment. During anticipation, in the striatum and a lateral region within the substantia nigra/ventral tegmental area (SN/VTA), action representations dominated over valence representations. Moreover, we did not observe any representation associated with different state values through accumulation of outcomes, challenging a conventional and dominant association between these areas and state value representations. In contrast, a more medial sector of the SN/VTA responded preferentially to valence, with opposite signs depending on whether action was anticipated to be emitted or withheld. This dominant influence of action requires an enriched notion of opponency between reward and punishment.