Reward Prediction Error Signal Enhanced by Striatum–Amygdala Interaction Explains the Acceleration of Probabilistic Reward Learning by Emotion
Noriya Watanabe, Masamichi Sakagami, and Masahiko Haruno
The Journal of Neuroscience, 6 March 2013, 33(10):4487-4493; doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3400-12.2013
Learning does not only depend on rationality, because real-life learning cannot be isolated from emotion or social factors. Therefore, it is intriguing to determine how emotion changes learning, and to identify which neural substrates underlie this interaction. Here, we show that the task-independent presentation of an emotional face before a reward-predicting cue increases the speed of cue–reward association learning in human subjects compared with trials in which a neutral face is presented. This phenomenon was attributable to an increase in the learning rate, which regulates reward prediction errors. Parallel to these behavioral findings, functional magnetic resonance imaging demonstrated that presentation of an emotional face enhanced reward prediction error (RPE) signal in the ventral striatum. In addition, we also found a functional link between this enhanced RPE signal and increased activity in the amygdala following presentation of an emotional face. Thus, this study revealed an acceleration of cue–reward association learning by emotion, and underscored a role of striatum–amygdala interactions in the modulation of the reward prediction errors by emotion.