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Rewards are defined by their behavioral functions in learning (positive reinforcement), approach behavior, economic choices, and emotions. Dopamine neurons respond to rewards with two components, similar to higher order sensory and cognitive neurons. The initial, rapid, unselective dopamine detection component reports all salient environmental events irrespective of their reward association. It is highly sensitive to factors related to reward and thus detects a maximal number of potential rewards. It also senses aversive stimuli but reports their physical impact rather than their aversiveness. The second response component processes reward value accurately and starts early enough to prevent confusion with unrewarded stimuli and objects. It codes reward value as a numeric, quantitative utility prediction error, consistent with formal concepts of economic decision theory. Thus, the dopamine reward signal is fast, highly sensitive and appropriate for driving and updating economic decisions.

Original publication

DOI

10.1002/cne.23880

Type

Journal article

Journal

J Comp Neurol

Publication Date

01/06/2016

Volume

524

Pages

1699 - 1711

Keywords

neuroeconomics, risk, stimulus components, subjective value, temporal discounting, utility, Animals, Brain, Choice Behavior, Dopamine, Dopaminergic Neurons, Humans, Learning, Reward