Background: Cortical reorganization occurs in the adult central nervous system. Plasticity contributes to various forms of human behavior including motor learning and memory formation, consolidation, reconsolidation and short and long term retention. It is very important to understand the role of these different behavioral processes and of the mechanisms underlying these various forms of human plasticity during skill acquisition. Findings this year: In reference to understanding the influence of Reward on learning we carried out two studies. In the first one, we postulated that baseline functional connectivity in a large-scale frontostriatal-limbic network could predict subsequent interindividual variability in rewarded learning. Resting-state functional MRI was acquired in two groups of subjects who then trained on a visuomotor procedural learning task with or without reward feedback. We then tested whether baseline functional connectivity within the frontostriatal-limbic network predicted memory strength measured immediately, 24 h and 1 month after training in both groups. We found that connectivity in the frontostriatal-limbic network predicted interindividual variability in the rewarded but not in the unrewarded learning group. Prediction was strongest for long-term memory. Similar links between connectivity and reward-based memory were absent in two control networks, a fronto-parieto-temporal language network and the dorsal attention network. The results indicate that baseline functional connectivity within the frontostriatal-limbic network predicts long-term retention of rewarded learning. In the second one, we studied interindividual differences in the effects of reward on performance which are prevalent and poorly understood, with some individuals being more dependent than others on the rewarding outcomes of their actions. The origin of this variability in reward dependence is unknown. We tested the relationship between reward dependence and brain structure in healthy humans. Subjects trained on a visuomotor skill-acquisition task and received performance feedback in the presence or absence of reward. Reward dependence was defined as the statistical trial-by-trial relation between reward and subsequent performance. We report a significant relationship between reward dependence and the lateral prefrontal cortex, where regional gray-matter volume predicted reward dependence but not feedback alone. Multivoxel pattern analysis confirmed the anatomical specificity of this relationship. These results identified a likely anatomical marker for the prospective influence of reward on performance, which may be of relevance in neurorehabilitative settings.

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Dayan, Eran; López-Alonso, Virginia; Liew, Sook-Lei et al. (2018) Distributed cortical structural properties contribute to motor cortical excitability and inhibition. Brain Struct Funct :
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