Serotonin modulates asymmetric learning from reward and punishment in healthy human volunteers

Jochen Michely*, Eran Eldar, Alon Erdman, Ingrid M. Martin, Raymond J. Dolan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Instrumental learning is driven by a history of outcome success and failure. Here, we examined the impact of serotonin on learning from positive and negative outcomes. Healthy human volunteers were assessed twice, once after acute (single-dose), and once after prolonged (week-long) daily administration of the SSRI citalopram or placebo. Using computational modelling, we show that prolonged boosting of serotonin enhances learning from punishment and reduces learning from reward. This valence-dependent learning asymmetry increases subjects’ tendency to avoid actions as a function of cumulative failure without leading to detrimental, or advantageous, outcomes. By contrast, no significant modulation of learning was observed following acute SSRI administration. However, differences between the effects of acute and prolonged administration were not significant. Overall, these findings may help explain how serotonergic agents impact on mood disorders.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number812
JournalCommunications Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

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