How do we make decisions to maximize positive outcomes? Elucidating the neural mechanisms that support this ability may lead to fundamental insights into human behavior and is crucial for the treatment of psychiatric disorders that feature maladaptive decisions (Maia &Frank, 2011). Animal studies suggest that dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra guide reinforcement learning, however, because animal studies typically examine behavioral adaptation following primary rewards, it is unclear how these studies generalize to human behavior, which is often motivated by higher-order rational and social rewards. We propose to study neural activity in the BG of patients undergoing surgery for the implantation of a deep brain stimulator (DBS) device for the treatment of Parkinson's Disease (PD). We will record and enhance putative dopaminergic activity in the human substantia nigra (via electrical stimulation) as participants engage in a probability learning task with abstract, audio-visual feedback. Through the combined use of microelectrode recordings, microstimulation and computational modeling, we seek to relate the phasic activity of dopaminergic activity in the human SN with reinforcement learning.

Public Health Relevance

We propose to directly study the activity of substantia nigra neurons in patients who are undergoing Deep Brain Stimulation surgery for the treatment of Parkinson's Disease. We seek to relate the activity of SN neurons with reinforcement learning using a combination of microelectrode recordings, stimulation and computational modeling. Our research will lay the groundwork for using electrical microstimulation to alter cognitive processes in a clinical setting, which may be useful in treating psychiatric disorders which feature maladalptive decisions.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Type
Individual Predoctoral NRSA for M.D./Ph.D. Fellowships (ADAMHA) (F30)
Project #
1F30MH102030-01A1
Application #
8717898
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
Program Officer
Rosemond, Erica K
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
1
Fiscal Year
2014
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Name
University of Pennsylvania
Department
Psychology
Type
Schools of Arts and Sciences
DUNS #
City
Philadelphia
State
PA
Country
United States
Zip Code
19104