Associations and Rewards in the Auditory Cortex
In psychology, the term association refers to a connection between different elementary mental entities (sensations, thoughts, feelings; Dudai 2002). Aside from innate, reflex-like associations, novel associations are typically acquired during learning. In Pavlovian/classical conditioning, a stimulus-stimulus association is formed by repetitively pairing an initially neutral stimulus with a biologically significant unconditioned stimulus that automatically triggers an unconditioned behavioral response. In instrumental/operant conditioning, a stimulus-response association is formed in the presence of reinforcers. Reinforcers can be either positive, such as water, food, money, and brain stimulation reward, and result in an increase in the probability of a response to the stimulus. Negative reinforcers (e.g., footshocks, airpuffs, money loss) decrease the probability of a response to the stimulus. If the reinforcer is removed, the learned associations risk extinction.
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