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Human Brain Mapping





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We investigated a controversy regarding the role of the dorsal striatum (DS) in deliberate decision-making versus late-stage, stimulus–response learning to the point of automatization. Participants learned to associate abstract images with right or left button presses explicitly before strengthening these associations through stimulus–response trials with (i.e., Session 1) and without (i.e., Session 2) feedback. In Session 1, trials were divided into response-selection and feedback events to separately assess decision versus learning processes. Session 3 evaluated stimulus–response automaticity using a location Stroop task. DS activity correlated with response-selection and not feedback events in Phase 1 (i.e., Blocks 1–3), Session 1. Longer response times (RTs), lower accuracy, and greater intertrial variability characterized Phase 1, suggesting deliberation. DS activity extinguished in Phase 2 (i.e., Blocks 4–12), Session 1, once RTs, response variability, and accuracy stabilized, though stimulus–response automatization continued. This was signaled by persisting improvements in RT and accuracy into Session 2. Distraction between Sessions 1 and 2 briefly reintroduced response uncertainty, and correspondingly, significant DS activity reappeared in Block 1 of Session 2 only. Once stimulus–response associations were again refamiliarized and deliberation unnecessary, DS activation disappeared for Blocks 2–8, Session 2. Interference from previously learned right or left button responses with incongruent location judgments in a location Stroop task provided evidence that automaticity of stimulus–specific button-press responses had developed by the end of Session 2. These results suggest that DS mediates decision making and not late-stage learning, reconciling two, independently evolving and well-supported literatures that implicate DS in different cognitive functions. Hum Brain Mapp 38:6133–6156, 2017. © 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.