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Model-Free Temporal-Difference Learning and Dopamine in Alcohol Dependence: Examining Concepts From Theory and Animals in Human Imaging

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Review article (peer-reviewed)
Author Huys Quentin J.M., Deserno Lorenz, Obermayer Klaus, Schlagenhauf Florian, Heinz Andreas,
Project Neurobehavioural predictors of depression relapse
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Review article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging
Volume (Issue) 1(5)
Page(s) 401 - 410
Title of proceedings Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging
DOI 10.1016/j.bpsc.2016.06.005


Abstract Dopamine potentially unites two important roles: one in addiction, being involved in most substances of abuse including alcohol, and a second one in a specific type of learning, namely model-free temporal-difference reinforcement learning. Theories of addiction have long suggested that drugs of abuse may usurp dopamine’s role in learning. Here, we briefly review the preclinical literature to motivate specific hypotheses about model-free temporal-difference learning and then review the imaging evidence in the drug of abuse with the most substantial societal consequences: alcohol. Despite the breadth of the literature, only a few studies have examined the predictions directly, and these provide at best inconclusive evidence for the involvement of temporal-difference learning alterations in alcohol dependence. We discuss the difficulties of testing the theory in humans, make specific suggestions, and close with a focus on the interaction with other learning mechanisms.