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Journal Article

Reversal learning strategy in adolescence is associated with prefrontal cortex activation


Deserno,  Lorenz
Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Charité University Medicine Berlin, Germany;
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
Department of Neurology, Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg, Germany;

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Boehme, R., Lorenz, R., Gleich, T., Romund, L., Pelz, P., Golde, S., et al. (2017). Reversal learning strategy in adolescence is associated with prefrontal cortex activation. European Journal of Neuroscience, 45(1), 129-137. doi:10.1111/ejn.13401.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002B-8672-3
Adolescence is a critical maturation period for human cognitive control and executive function. In this study, a large sample of adolescents (n = 85) performed a reversal learning task during functional magnetic resonance imaging. We analyzed behavioral data using a reinforcement learning model to provide individually fitted parameters and imaging data with regard to reward prediction errors (PE). Following a model-based approach, we formed two groups depending on whether individuals tended to update expectations predominantly for the chosen stimulus or also for the unchosen one. These groups significantly differed in their problem behavior score obtained using the child behavior checklist (CBCL) and in a measure of their developmental stage. Imaging results showed that dorsolateral striatal areas covaried with PE. Participants who relied less on learning based on task structure showed less prefrontal activation compared with participants who relied more on task structure. An exploratory analysis revealed that PE-related activity was associated with pubertal development in prefrontal areas, insula and anterior cingulate. These findings support the hypothesis that the prefrontal cortex is implicated in mediating flexible goal-directed behavioral control.