Effects of ventral striatum lesions on stimulus-based versus action-based reinforcement learning

Kathryn M. Rothenhoefe, Vincent D. Costa, Ramón Bartolo, Raquel Vicario-Feliciano, Elisabeth A. Murray, Bruno B. Averbeck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Learning the values of actions versus stimuli may depend on separable neural circuits. In the current study, we evaluated the performance of rhesus macaques with ventral striatum (VS) lesions on a two-arm bandit task that had randomly interleaved blocks of stimulus-based and action-based reinforcement learning (RL). Compared with controls, monkeys with VS lesions had deficits in learning to select rewarding images but not rewarding actions. We used a RL model to quantify learning and choice consistency and found that, in stimulus-based RL, the VS lesion monkeys were more influenced by negative feedback and had lower choice consistency than controls. Using a Bayesian model to parse the groups’ learning strategies, we also found that VS lesion monkeys defaulted to an action-based choice strategy. Therefore, the VS is involved specifically in learning the value of stimuli, not actions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6902-6914
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number29
StatePublished - Jul 19 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Reinforcement learning
  • Ventral striatum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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