Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Who learns from the carrot, and who from the stick?

Date:
November 21, 2013
Source:
Radboud University Nijmegen
Summary:
To flexibly deal with our ever-changing world, it is thought that we need to learn from both the negative and positive consequences of our behavior. In other words, from punishment and reward. Scientists have now demonstrated that serotonin and dopamine related genes influence how we base our choices on past punishments or rewards. This influence depends on which gene variant you inherited from your parents.

The online game.
Credit: Image courtesy of Radboud University Nijmegen

To flexibly deal with our ever-changing world, we need to learn from both the negative and positive consequences of our behaviour. In other words, from punishment and reward. Hanneke den Ouden from the Donders Institute in Nijmegen demonstrated that serotonin and dopamine related genes influence how we base our choices on past punishments or rewards. This influence depends on which gene variant you inherited from your parents.

These results were published in Neuron on 20 November.

The brain chemicals dopamine and serotonin partly determine our sensitivity to reward and punishment. At least, this was a common assumption. Hanneke den Ouden and Roshan Cools investigated this assumption together with colleagues from the Donders Institute and New York University. Den Ouden explains: 'We used a simple computer game to test the genetic influence of the genes DAT1 and SERT, as these genes influence dopamine and serotonin. We discovered that the dopamine gene affects how we learn from the long-term consequences of our choices, while the serotonin gene affects our choices in the short term.'

Online game

'In nearly 700 people we analysed which variant of the SERT and the DAT1 genes they had', Den Ouden describes. 'Using an online game, we investigated how well people are able to adjust their choice strategy after receiving a reward or a punishment.' The players would repeatedly choose one of two symbols. Symbol A usually resulted in a reward whereas symbol B usually resulted in punishment. Halfway through the game, these rules were reversed. The game allowed the researchers to measure how flexible people are in adjusting their choices when the rules change. But it also showed whether people impulsively change their choice when the computer happened to give misleading feedback.

Different genes, different strategies

Den Ouden: 'Different players use different strategies. It all depends on their genetic material. People's tendency to change their choice immediately after receiving a punishment depends on which serotonin gene variant they inherited from their parents. The dopamine gene variant, on the other hand, exerts influence on whether people can stop themselves making the choice that was previously rewarded, but no longer is.'

This study shows that dopamine and serotonin are important for different forms of flexibility associated with receiving reward and punishment. Many neuropsychiatric disorders caused by abnormal dopamine and/or serotonin levels are associated with forms of inflexibility, for example addiction, anxiety, or Parkinson's disease. So this study not only tells us more about the heritability of our choice behaviour; a better understanding of the relationship between brain chemicals and behaviour in healthy people will ultimately help to provide us with better insight into these neuropsychiatric disorders.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Radboud University Nijmegen. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Hanneke E.M. den Ouden, Nathaniel D. Daw, Guillén Fernandez, Joris A. Elshout, Mark Rijpkema, Martine Hoogman, Barbara Franke, Roshan Cools. Dissociable Effects of Dopamine and Serotonin on Reversal Learning. Neuron, 2013; 80 (4): 1090 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2013.08.030

Cite This Page:

Radboud University Nijmegen. "Who learns from the carrot, and who from the stick?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 November 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131121125818.htm>.
Radboud University Nijmegen. (2013, November 21). Who learns from the carrot, and who from the stick?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131121125818.htm
Radboud University Nijmegen. "Who learns from the carrot, and who from the stick?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131121125818.htm (accessed April 24, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Study Says Most Crime Not Linked To Mental Illness

Study Says Most Crime Not Linked To Mental Illness

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) — A new study finds most crimes committed by people with mental illness are not caused by symptoms of their illness or disorder. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Smaller Plates And Cutlery Could Make You Feel Fuller

How Smaller Plates And Cutlery Could Make You Feel Fuller

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) — NBC's "Today" conducted an experiment to see if changing the size of plates and utensils affects the amount individuals eat. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do We Get Nicer With Age?

Do We Get Nicer With Age?

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) — A recent report claims personality can change over time as we age, and usually that means becoming nicer and more emotionally stable. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How to Master Motherhood With the Best Work/Life Balance

How to Master Motherhood With the Best Work/Life Balance

TheStreet (Apr. 22, 2014) — In the U.S., there are more than 11 million couples trying to conceive at any given time. From helping celebrity moms like Bethanny Frankel to ordinary soon-to-be-moms, TV personality and parenting expert, Rosie Pope, gives you the inside scoop on mastering motherhood. London-born entrepreneur Pope is the creative force behind Rosie Pope Maternity and MomPrep. She explains why being an entrepreneur offers the best life balance for her and tips for all types of moms. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins