• computational models;
  • ventral striatum;
  • reward;
  • fMRI


Predicting rewards and avoiding aversive conditions is essential for survival. Recent studies using computational models of reward prediction implicate the ventral striatum in appetitive rewards. Whether the same system mediates an organism's response to aversive conditions is unclear. We examined the question using fMRI blood oxygen level-dependent measurements while healthy volunteers were conditioned using appetitive and aversive stimuli. The temporal difference learning algorithm was used to estimate reward prediction error. Activations in the ventral striatum were robustly correlated with prediction error, regardless of the valence of the stimuli, suggesting that the ventral striatum processes salience prediction error. In contrast, the orbitofrontal cortex and anterior insula coded for the differential valence of appetitive/aversive stimuli. Given its location at the interface of limbic and motor regions, the ventral striatum may be critical in learning about motivationally salient stimuli, regardless of valence, and using that information to bias selection of actions. Inc. Hum Brain Mapp, 2007. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.