Adaptive behaviour under conflict: Deconstructing extinction, reversal, and active avoidance learning.

Publisher:
Elsevier BV
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews, 2020
Issue Date:
2020-10-06
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In complex environments, organisms must respond adaptively to situations despite conflicting information. Under natural (i.e. non-laboratory) circumstances, it is rare that cues or responses are consistently paired with a single outcome. Inconsistent pairings are more common, as are situations where cues and responses are associated with multiple outcomes. Such inconsistency creates conflict, and a response that is adaptive in one scenario may not be adaptive in another. Learning to adjust responses accordingly is important for species to survive and prosper. Here we review the behavioural and brain mechanisms of responding under conflict by focusing on three popular behavioural procedures: extinction, reversal learning, and active avoidance. Extinction involves adapting from reinforcement to non-reinforcement, reversal learning involves swapping the reinforcement of cues or responses, and active avoidance involves performing a response to avoid an aversive outcome, which may conflict with other defensive strategies. We note that each of these phenomena relies on somewhat overlapping neural circuits, suggesting that such circuits may be critical for the general ability to respond appropriately under conflict.
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