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The basal ganglia and training of arithmetic fluency

Ponting, Andrea (2010) The basal ganglia and training of arithmetic fluency. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The role of dopamine neurons in reward processing is well-established, as is the observation of reward-related responses in the striatum, a region to which these midbrain dopamine neurons project. The reward-prediction error signals generated in the midbrain may play a role in the striatum in learning, as they help to shape expectations about future events based on prior experiences. The goal of the current experiment was to use principles of striatal function in order to optimize learning in an arithmetic domain. We created a training program that we believed would lead to increased arithmetic fluency by maximally engaging the striatum, through the use of contingent feedback, uncertainty regarding performance, and incentives for correct responses. Both experimental and control participants, who completed training focusing on arithmetic calculation and digit-entry respectively, showed improvement on a task involving the addition of a double-digit and a single-digit number following training, as successful performance on the task required accurate computations and entry of the solution within a narrow response window. We conducted functional magnetic resonance imaging before and after training while participants performed this task, in order to examine the effect of feedback on activity in the caudate nucleus and to determine if learning signals generated by the striatum during arithmetic training are able to modify quantity representations in parietal cortex. Results indicated activation of both the caudate nucleus and the hIPS region. Activation of the caudate nucleus replicated previous work, as it showed the prototypical pattern of activity that distinguished between positive and negative feedback. Activation of the hIPS region was not surprising, given the focus on arithmetic calculation, but this region also exhibited feedback-sensitive activation that differed between sessions and groups, possibly indicating the common influence of a reinforcement learning system.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Ponting, Andreaponting@pitt.eduPONTING
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairFiez, Julie
Committee MemberLuna, Beatriz
Committee MemberSchunn, Christian
Date: 8 June 2010
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 14 April 2010
Approval Date: 8 June 2010
Submission Date: 8 April 2010
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Neuroscience
Degree: MS - Master of Science
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: arithmetic; caudate; feedback; fMRI; hIPS; learning; striatum
Other ID:, etd-04082010-121607
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:35
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:39


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