Reward prediction error modulates saccade vigor

Ehsan Sedaghat-Nejad, David J. Herzfeld, Reza Shadmehr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Movement vigor, defined as the reciprocal of the latency from availability of reward to its acquisition, changes with reward magnitude: Movements exhibit shorter reaction time and increased velocity when they are directed toward more rewarding stimuli. This invigoration may be due to release of dopamine before movement onset, which has been shown to be modulated by events that signal reward prediction error (RPE). Here, we generated an RPE event in the milliseconds before movement onset and tested whether there was a relationship between RPE and vigor. Human subjects (both sexes) made saccades toward an image. During execution of the primary saccade, we probabilistically changed the position and content of that image, encouraging a secondary saccade. On some trials, the content of the secondary image was more valuable than the first image, resulting in a positive RPE (+RPE) event that preceded the secondary saccade.Onother trials, this content was less valuable (–PEevent).Wefound that reaction time of the secondary saccade was affected in an orderly fashion by the magnitude and direction of the preceding RPE event: The most vigorous saccades followed the largest  +RPE, whereas the least vigorous saccades followed the largest –RPE. Presence of the secondary saccade indicated that the primary saccade had experienced a movement error, inducing trial-to-trial adaptation. However, this learning from movement error was not modulated by the RPE event. The data suggest that RPE events, which are thought to transiently alter the release of dopamine, modulate the vigor of the ensuing movement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5010-5017
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number25
StatePublished - Jun 19 2019


  • Dopamine
  • Latency
  • Motor control
  • Reward prediction error
  • Saccade
  • Vigor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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