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Learning from positive and negative reinforcers is central for successful interaction with the environment and sensory stimuli are continuously interpreted according to their incentive value to allow behavioral adaptation. The neuronal structures underlying those processes are termed the "brain reward system". A dysfunction of the reward system has been proposed to play a central role in the pathophysiology of different neuropsychiatric disorders like schizophrenia or drug dependence. In psychosis, altered dopaminergic neurotransmission may impair learning from incentive feedback, lead to aberrant salience attribution to environmental stimuli and contribute to psychopathological symptoms like delusions. In drug dependence, a "hijacked" mesolimbic reward system can lead to increased salience attribution to drug-associated cues and impair learning from negative consequences.
A multimodal imaging approach combining functional MRI and neurochemical PET imaging is applied to elucidate the underlying mechanisms of impaired learning and other neurocognitive functions in various neuropsychiatric disorders and to investigate the influence of different pharmacological modulations.
There is a close collaboration with the Max-Planck Fellow Group 'Cognitive and affective control of behavioural adaptation'