Being curious and motivated to learn: how the dopaminergic circuit enhances memory retention
An adaptive memory system prioritizes salient over less salient information. Several studies have shown how rewards influence learning of specific stimuli, but little is known about how motivational states affect retention of information that is learned during motivational states.
In my talk, I will highlight how motivational states not only facilitate learning of motivationally relevant but also of incidental information encountered during motivational states. Furthermore, I will present evidence from a series of fMRI and EEG studies that demonstrate how states of high extrinsic motivation (via monetary incentives) and intrinsic motivation (via curiosity) modulate learning and post-learning neural dynamics. The prioritization of remembering salient information seems to critically depend on key areas of the mesolimbic dopaminergic circuit together with the hippocampus not only during the initial learning but also during subsequent post-learning rest periods. In addition, prestimulus theta oscillations that precede salient information predict later retention benefits.
The findings suggest how motivational states can be potentially harnessed to facilitate learning and memory consolidation mechanisms.