Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Adaptive memory retrieval requires mechanisms of cognitive control that facilitate the recovery of goal-relevant information. Frontoparietal systems are known to support control of memory retrieval. However, the mechanisms by which the brain acquires, evaluates, and adapts retrieval strategies remain unknown. Here, we provide evidence that ventral striatal activation tracks the success of a retrieval strategy and correlates with subsequent reliance on that strategy. Human participants were scanned with fMRI while performing a lexical decision task. A rule was provided that indicated the likely semantic category of a target word given the category of a preceding prime. Reliance on the rule improved decision-making, as estimated within a drift diffusion framework. Ventral striatal activation tracked the benefit that relying on the rule had on decision-making. Moreover, activation in ventral striatum correlated with a participant's subsequent reliance on the rule. Taken together, these results support a role for ventral striatum in learning and evaluating declarative retrieval strategies.