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Catecholaminergic modulation of meta-learning


Cook, Jennifer L; Swart, Jennifer C; Froböse, Monja I; Diaconescu, Andreea O; Geurts, Dirk EM; den Ouden, Hanneke EM; Cools, Roshan (2019). Catecholaminergic modulation of meta-learning. eLife, 8:e51439.

Abstract

The remarkable expedience of human learning is thought to be underpinned by meta-learning, whereby slow accumulative learning processes are rapidly adjusted to the current learning environment. To date, the neurobiological implementation of meta-learning remains unclear. A burgeoning literature argues for an important role for the catecholamines dopamine and noradrenaline in meta-learning. Here, we tested the hypothesis that enhancing catecholamine function modulates the ability to optimise a meta-learning parameter (learning rate) as a function of environmental volatility. 102 participants completed a task which required learning in stable phases, where the probability of reinforcement was constant, and volatile phases, where probabilities changed every 10–30 trials. The catecholamine transporter blocker methylphenidate enhanced participants’ ability to adapt learning rate: Under methylphenidate, compared with placebo, participants exhibited higher learning rates in volatile relative to stable phases. Furthermore, this effect was significant only with respect to direct learning based on the participants’ own experience, there was no significant effect on inferred-value learning where stimulus values had to be inferred. These data demonstrate a causal link between catecholaminergic modulation and the adjustment of the meta-learning parameter learning rate.

Abstract

The remarkable expedience of human learning is thought to be underpinned by meta-learning, whereby slow accumulative learning processes are rapidly adjusted to the current learning environment. To date, the neurobiological implementation of meta-learning remains unclear. A burgeoning literature argues for an important role for the catecholamines dopamine and noradrenaline in meta-learning. Here, we tested the hypothesis that enhancing catecholamine function modulates the ability to optimise a meta-learning parameter (learning rate) as a function of environmental volatility. 102 participants completed a task which required learning in stable phases, where the probability of reinforcement was constant, and volatile phases, where probabilities changed every 10–30 trials. The catecholamine transporter blocker methylphenidate enhanced participants’ ability to adapt learning rate: Under methylphenidate, compared with placebo, participants exhibited higher learning rates in volatile relative to stable phases. Furthermore, this effect was significant only with respect to direct learning based on the participants’ own experience, there was no significant effect on inferred-value learning where stimulus values had to be inferred. These data demonstrate a causal link between catecholaminergic modulation and the adjustment of the meta-learning parameter learning rate.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Biomedical Engineering
Dewey Decimal Classification:170 Ethics
610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > General Neuroscience
Life Sciences > General Immunology and Microbiology
Life Sciences > General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
Uncontrolled Keywords:General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology, General Immunology and Microbiology, General Neuroscience, General Medicine
Language:English
Date:18 December 2019
Deposited On:08 Jan 2021 12:16
Last Modified:01 Feb 2021 15:18
Publisher:eLife Sciences Publications Ltd.
ISSN:2050-084X
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.7554/elife.51439
PubMed ID:31850844
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant IDPZ00P3_167952
  • : Project TitleNeurocomputational Modelling of Delusions and its Clinical Utility for Psychosis

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