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Patients with basal ganglia damage show preserved learning in an economic game


Both basal ganglia (BG) and orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) have been widely implicated in social and non-social decision-making. However, unlike OFC damage, BG pathology is not typically associated with disturbances in social functioning. Here we studied the behavior of patients with focal lesions to either BG or OFC in a multi-strategy competitive game known to engage these regions. We find that whereas OFC patients are significantly impaired, BG patients show intact learning in the economic game. By contrast, when information about the strategic context is absent, both cohorts are significantly impaired. Computational modeling further shows a preserved ability in BG patients to learn by anticipating and responding to the behavior of others using the strategic context. These results suggest that apparently divergent findings on BG contribution to social decision-making may instead reflect a model where higher-order learning processes are dissociable from trial-and-error learning, and can be preserved despite BG damage.

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