Moran PM, Rouse JL, Cross B, Corcoran R, Schürmann M
PLoS ONE 2012;7(8):e43905
The following study used 3-T functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate the neural signature of Kamin blocking. Kamin blocking is an associative learning phenomenon seen where prior association of a stimulus (A) with an outcome blocks subsequent learning to an added stimulus (B) when both stimuli are later presented together (AB) with the same outcome. While there are a number of theoretical explanations of Kamin blocking, it is widely considered to exemplify the use of prediction error in learning, where learning occurs in proportion to the difference between expectation and outcome. In Kamin blocking as stimulus A fully predicts the outcome no prediction error is generated by the addition of stimulus B to form the compound stimulus AB, hence learning about it is "blocked". Kamin blocking is disrupted in people with schizophrenia, their relatives and healthy individuals with high psychometrically-defined schizotypy. This disruption supports suggestions that abnormal prediction error is a core deficit that can help to explain the symptoms of schizophrenia. The present study tested 9 healthy volunteers on an f-MRI adaptation of Oades' "mouse in the house task", the only task measuring Kamin blocking that shows disruption in schizophrenia patients that has been independently replicated. Participant's Kamin blocking scores were found to inversely correlate with Kamin-blocking-related activation within the prefrontal cortex, specifically the medial frontal gyrus. The medial frontal gyrus has been associated with the psychological construct of uncertainty, which we suggest is consistent with disrupted Kamin blocking and demonstrated in people with schizophrenia. These data suggest that the medial frontal gyrus merits further investigation as a potential locus of reduced Kamin blocking and abnormal prediction error in schizophrenia.