Reward-guided learning and decision-making is a fundamental adaptive ability and depends on a number of component processes. We investigate how such component processes mature during human adolescence. Our approach was guided by analyses of the effects of lateral orbitofrontal lesions in macaque monkeys, as this part of the brain shows clear developmental maturation in humans during adolescence. Using matched tasks and analyses in humans (n=388, 11-35yrs), we observe developmental changes in two key learning mechanisms as predicted from the monkey data. First, choice-reward credit assignment – the ability to link a specific outcome to a specific choice – is reduced in adolescents. Second, the effects of the global reward state – how good the environment is overall recently – exerts a distinctive pattern of influence on learning in humans compared to other primates and across adolescence this pattern becomes more pronounced. Both mechanisms were correlated across participants suggesting that associative learning of correct reward assignments and GRS based learning constitute two complementary mechanisms of reward-learning that co-mature during adolescence.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience