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Facilitation of learning by social-emotional feedback in humans is beta-noradrenergic-dependent.

Author(s): Mihov Y, Mayer S, Musshoff F, Maier W, Kendrick KM, Hurlemann R

Affiliation(s): Department of Psychiatry, University of Bonn, 53105 Bonn, Germany.

Publication date & source: 2010-08, Neuropsychologia., 48(10):3168-72. Epub 2010 May 8.

Publication type: Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

Adaptive behavior in dynamic environments critically depends on the ability to learn rapidly and flexibly from the outcomes of prior choices. In social environments, facial expressions of emotion often serve as performance feedback and thereby guide declarative learning. Abundant evidence implicates beta-noradrenergic signaling in the modulatory influence of emotion on declarative learning. It is currently unclear whether a similar mechanism also mediates a guidance of declarative learning by social-emotional feedback administered in the form of facial expressions. We therefore conducted a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial to test the effects of a 40-mg single oral dose of the nonspecific beta-noradrenergic antagonist propranolol in a behavioral task that required gradual declarative learning of item-category associations from either social-emotional (happy vs. angry faces) or nonsocial (green vs. red color signals) trial-by-trial feedback. As predicted on the basis of our previous experiments, learning from social-emotional feedback was more effective than learning from nonsocial feedback in placebo-treated subjects. This advantage of social-emotional over nonsocial feedback was abolished by propranolol treatment. Propranolol had no effect on learning during the nonsocial feedback condition. Our findings suggest that a facilitation of declarative learning by social-emotional feedback critically involves signaling via beta-noradrenergic receptors. Copyright (c) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Page last updated: 2010-10-05

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