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Continous theta-burst stimulation (cTBS) over the lateral prefrontal cortex alters reinforcement learning bias

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Ott,  Derek V. M.
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Neumann,  Jane
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Klein,  Tilmann A.
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Ott, D. V. M., Ullsperger, M., Jocham, G., Neumann, J., & Klein, T. A. (2011). Continous theta-burst stimulation (cTBS) over the lateral prefrontal cortex alters reinforcement learning bias. NeuroImage, 57(2), 617-623. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.04.038.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0012-24E1-F
Abstract
The prefrontal cortex is known to play a key role in higher-order cognitive functions. Recently, we showed that this brain region is active in reinforcement learning, during which subjects constantly have to integrate trial outcomes in order to optimize performance. To further elucidate the role of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) in reinforcement learning, we applied continuous theta-burst stimulation (cTBS) either to the left or right DLPFC, or to the vertex as a control region, respectively, prior to the performance of a probabilistic learning task in an fMRI environment. While there was no influence of cTBS on learning performance per se, we observed a stimulation-dependent modulation of reward vs. punishment sensitivity: Left-hemispherical DLPFC stimulation led to a more reward-guided performance, while right-hemispherical cTBS induced a more avoidance-guided behavior. FMRI results showed enhanced prediction error coding in the ventral striatum in subjects stimulated over the left as compared to the right DLPFC. Both behavioral and imaging results are in line with recent findings that left, but not right-hemispherical stimulation can trigger a release of dopamine in the ventral striatum, which has been suggested to increase the relative impact of rewards rather than punishment on behavior.