A specific role for posterior dorsolateral striatum in human habit learning


  • Elizabeth Tricomi,

    1. Department of Psychology, Rutgers University, Newark, NJ 07102, USA
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  • Bernard W. Balleine,

    1. Department of Psychology and the Brain Research Institute, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA
    2. Brain and Mind Research Institute, University of Sydney, Australia
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  • John P. O’Doherty

    1. Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, USA
    2. Computation and Neural Systems Program, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, USA
    3. School of Psychology and Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
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Dr E. Tricomi, as above.
E-mail: etricomi@psychology.rutgers.edu


Habits are characterized by an insensitivity to their consequences and, as such, can be distinguished from goal-directed actions. The neural basis of the development of demonstrably outcome-insensitive habitual actions in humans has not been previously characterized. In this experiment, we show that extensive training on a free-operant task reduces the sensitivity of participants’ behavior to a reduction in outcome value. Analysis of functional magnetic resonance imaging data acquired during training revealed a significant increase in task-related cue sensitivity in a right posterior putamen–globus pallidus region as training progressed. These results provide evidence for a shift from goal-directed to habit-based control of instrumental actions in humans, and suggest that cue-driven activation in a specific region of dorsolateral posterior putamen may contribute to the habitual control of behavior in humans.