Acquired equivalence (AE) is a form of feedback-based associative learning where the subject learns that two or more stimuli are equivalent in terms of being mapped onto the same outcomes or responses. While several studies dealt with how various neurological and psychiatric conditions affect performance on AE tasks (typically with small populations), studies dealing with AE in healthy subjects are rare, and no study has ever made an attempt to plot the development of this form of learning from the childhood through adulthood. In a cross-sectional study, we assessed the AE performance of 265 healthy subjects aged 3 to 52 years with the computer-based Rutgers Equivalence Test (Fish-Face Test, FFT). The test assesses three main aspects of AE: the efficiency of pair learning, the efficiency of the retrieval of acquired pairs, and the ability to generalise previous knowledge to a new stimulus that partially overlaps with the previous ones. It has been demonstrated in imaging studies that the initial, pair learning phase of this specific test is dependent on the basal ganglia, while its generalization phase requires the hippocampi. We found that both pair learning and retrieval exhibited development well into adulthood, but generalisation did not, after having reached its adult-like level by the age of 6. We propose that these findings might be explained by the integrative encoding theory that focuses on the parallel dopaminergic midbrain-striatum/midbrain-hippocampus connections.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)