Neuronal Mechanisms Underlying the Formation and Disconnection of Associations Between Visual Stimuli and Reinforcement in Primates
Damage to the temporal lobe neocortex or to the amygdala impairs the ability of primates to perform tasks which require the formation of learned associations between complex visual stimuli and reward or punishment. Analysis of the responses of single neurons in the anatomically connected sequence inferior temporal visual cortex / amygdala / hypothalamus in the monkey showed that neuronal responses to visual stimuli were not related in ‘the inferior temporal cortex to whether the stimuli were associated with reinforcement, were partly related to this in some amygdaloid neurons, and were related to reinforcement in a population of hypothalamic neurons. Damage to the primate orbitofrontal cortex impairs the performance of tasks which require the disconnection of associations between stimuli and reinforcement. Neuronal responses recorded in this region were related for example to whether particular visual stimuli had been reinforced previously, or for different subsets of neurons to whether reward or punishment had been obtained, or reward had been omitted. These findings thus provide evidence on how associations are formed and broken between stimuli normally of importance to primates and reinforcement, and indicate that the formation and disconnection are separable processes.
KeywordsVisual Stimulus Neuronal Response Orbitofrontal Cortex Visual Discrimination Lateral Hypothalamus
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