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      The Birth, Death, and Resurrection of Avoidance: A Reconceptualization of a Troubled Paradigm


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          Research on avoidance conditioning began in the late 1930s as a way to use laboratory experiments to better understand uncontrollable fear and anxiety. Avoidance was initially conceived of as a two-factor learning process in which fear is initially acquired through Pavlovian aversive conditioning (so-called fear conditioning), and then behaviors that reduce the fear aroused by the Pavlovian conditioned stimulus are reinforced through instrumental conditioning. Over the years, criticisms of both the avoidance paradigm and the two-factor fear theory arose. By the mid 1980s, avoidance had fallen out of favor as an experimental model relevant to fear and anxiety. However recent progress in understanding the neural basis of Pavlovian conditioning has stimulated a new wave of research on avoidance. The new work has fostered new insights into contributions of not only Pavlovian and instrumental learning, but also habit learning, to avoidance, and has suggested that the reinforcing event underlying the instrumental phase should be conceived in terms of cellular and molecular events in specific circuits rather than in terms of vague notions of fear reduction. In our approach, defensive reactions (freezing), actions (avoidance) and habits (habitual avoidance) are viewed as being controlled by unique circuits that operate non-consciously in the control of behavior, and that are distinct from the circuits that give rise to conscious feelings of fear and anxiety. These refinements, we suggest, overcome older criticisms, justifying the value of the new wave of research on avoidance, and offering a fresh perspective on the clinical implications of this work.

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          Human and rodent homologies in action control: corticostriatal determinants of goal-directed and habitual action.

          Recent behavioral studies in both humans and rodents have found evidence that performance in decision-making tasks depends on two different learning processes; one encoding the relationship between actions and their consequences and a second involving the formation of stimulus-response associations. These learning processes are thought to govern goal-directed and habitual actions, respectively, and have been found to depend on homologous corticostriatal networks in these species. Thus, recent research using comparable behavioral tasks in both humans and rats has implicated homologous regions of cortex (medial prefrontal cortex/medial orbital cortex in humans and prelimbic cortex in rats) and of dorsal striatum (anterior caudate in humans and dorsomedial striatum in rats) in goal-directed action and in the control of habitual actions (posterior lateral putamen in humans and dorsolateral striatum in rats). These learning processes have been argued to be antagonistic or competing because their control over performance appears to be all or none. Nevertheless, evidence has started to accumulate suggesting that they may at times compete and at others cooperate in the selection and subsequent evaluation of actions necessary for normal choice performance. It appears likely that cooperation or competition between these sources of action control depends not only on local interactions in dorsal striatum but also on the cortico-basal ganglia network within which the striatum is embedded and that mediates the integration of learning with basic motivational and emotional processes. The neural basis of the integration of learning and motivation in choice and decision-making is still controversial and we review some recent hypotheses relating to this issue.
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            Drug Addiction: Updating Actions to Habits to Compulsions Ten Years On.

            A decade ago, we hypothesized that drug addiction can be viewed as a transition from voluntary, recreational drug use to compulsive drug-seeking habits, neurally underpinned by a transition from prefrontal cortical to striatal control over drug seeking and taking as well as a progression from the ventral to the dorsal striatum. Here, in the light of burgeoning, supportive evidence, we reconsider and elaborate this hypothesis, in particular the refinements in our understanding of ventral and dorsal striatal mechanisms underlying goal-directed and habitual drug seeking, the influence of drug-associated Pavlovian-conditioned stimuli on drug seeking and relapse, and evidence for impairments in top-down prefrontal cortical inhibitory control over this behavior. We further review animal and human studies that have begun to define etiological factors and individual differences in the propensity to become addicted to drugs, leading to the description of addiction endophenotypes, especially for cocaine addiction. We consider the prospect of novel treatments for addiction that promote abstinence from and relapse to drug use.
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              Emotion and cognition: insights from studies of the human amygdala.

              Traditional approaches to the study of cognition emphasize an information-processing view that has generally excluded emotion. In contrast, the recent emergence of cognitive neuroscience as an inspiration for understanding human cognition has highlighted its interaction with emotion. This review explores insights into the relations between emotion and cognition that have resulted from studies of the human amygdala. Five topics are explored: emotional learning, emotion and memory, emotion's influence on attention and perception, processing emotion in social stimuli, and changing emotional responses. Investigations into the neural systems underlying human behavior demonstrate that the mechanisms of emotion and cognition are intertwined from early perception to reasoning. These findings suggest that the classic division between the study of emotion and cognition may be unrealistic and that an understanding of human cognition requires the consideration of emotion.

                Author and article information

                Mol Psychiatry
                Mol. Psychiatry
                Molecular psychiatry
                24 August 2016
                18 October 2016
                January 2017
                18 April 2017
                : 22
                : 1
                : 24-36
                [1 ]Center for Neural Science, NY, USA
                Author notes
                [^ ]Corresponding author: jel1@ 123456nyu.edu

                The first two authors contributed equally to this paper.


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                Molecular medicine
                Molecular medicine


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