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Opponent appetitive-aversive neural processes underlie predictive learning of pain relief.

Nature neuroscience | Sep 29, 2005

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16116445

Termination of a painful or unpleasant event can be rewarding. However, whether the brain treats relief in a similar way as it treats natural reward is unclear, and the neural processes that underlie its representation as a motivational goal remain poorly understood. We used fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to investigate how humans learn to generate expectations of pain relief. Using a pavlovian conditioning procedure, we show that subjects experiencing prolonged experimentally induced pain can be conditioned to predict pain relief. This proceeds in a manner consistent with contemporary reward-learning theory (average reward/loss reinforcement learning), reflected by neural activity in the amygdala and midbrain. Furthermore, these reward-like learning signals are mirrored by opposite aversion-like signals in lateral orbitofrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex. This dual coding has parallels to 'opponent process' theories in psychology and promotes a formal account of prediction and expectation during pain.

Pubmed ID: 16116445 RIS Download

Mesh terms: Avoidance Learning | Behavior Therapy | Brain | Capsaicin | Conditioning (Psychology) | Female | Functional Laterality | Humans | Image Processing, Computer-Assisted | Magnetic Resonance Imaging | Male | Models, Biological | Oxygen | Pain | Pain Management | Pain Measurement | Reward | Statistics, Nonparametric | Time Factors

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Associated grants

  • Agency: Wellcome Trust, Id:

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