Interaction between emotional state and learning underlies mood instability

Eran Eldar*, Yael Niv

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


Intuitively, good and bad outcomes affect our emotional state, but whether the emotional state feeds back onto the perception of outcomes remains unknown. Here, we use behaviour and functional neuroimaging of human participants to investigate this bidirectional interaction, by comparing the evaluation of slot machines played before and after an emotion-impacting wheel-of-fortune draw. Results indicate that self-reported mood instability is associated with a positive-feedback effect of emotional state on the perception of outcomes. We then use theoretical simulations to demonstrate that such positive feedback would result in mood destabilization. Taken together, our results suggest that the interaction between emotional state and learning may play a significant role in the emergence of mood instability.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number6149
JournalNature Communications
StatePublished - 21 Jan 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Peter L Bossaerts, Raymond J. Dolan, Samuel J. Gershman, Waitsang (Jane) Keung, Angela Radulescu, Geoffrey Schoenbaum, Amitai Shenhav and Robert C. Wilson for technical help and comments on a previous version of the manuscript. This project was made possible through grants from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to E.E., and from the John Templeton Foundation and Human Frontiers Science Programme to Y.N. The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.


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