Rewards foster learning

Rewards foster learning

New study provides hope for enhancement of learning process and medical rehabilitation.
source-image
Sep 17, 2009
By dvm360.com staff
Praise for a job well done or a small gift of thanks for hard work around the veterinary clinic constitute much more than workplace pleasantries. Positive reinforcement in the form of rewards is not only good for morale but it also enhances the cognitive process of learning. Decisions made with positive outcomes embed themselves in the brain through a system of neural feedback and with each repetition performance is enhanced.

A study in the journal PLoS Biology shows the potential for optimization of this learning process. An experiment by Dr. Burkhard Pleger of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences and the University College London focused on the significance of the neural transmitter dopamine with respect to somatosensory functions, i.e. the sense of touch. He divided subjects into three groups, one receiving a dopamine increasing compound, one receiving a dopamine inhibitor, and a control group receiving a placebo. The results clearly showed a connection between the raised dopamine levels and somatosensory learning, and by extension, the entire process of learning.

In the future, targeted application of pharmaceutical dopamine enhancers might have a role in physical rehabilitation for stroke patients.

Dr. Burkhard says it's conceivable that similarly focused medicinal dopamine enhancers could aid learning. However, he notes that there are risks associated with increased dopamine levels, including development of mental illness. In the meantime, we'll just have to continue to encourage one another with the knowledge that a system of rewards really works.

Hot topics on dvm360

Dog of Dallas Ebola patient will not be euthanized, authorities say

Health officials have quarantined and will monitor dog and amid concerns surrounding deadly virus.

Video: How to perform a belt-loop gastropexy

Prevent GDV in your at-risk patients with this simple technique.

Stretch your skills to earn more in veterinary practice

Finding new tasks could be the key to generating more income for your practice—and boosting your pay.

Veterinary community stunned by Sophia Yin's unexpected death

Prominent veterinary behaviorist died of suicide Sept. 28.

Study shows sustained salary slump for veterinary support staff

Since 2009, technicians paid by the hour have experienced a bump in pay, but pay for other team members has stayed stagnant, according to data from the 2014 Firstline Career Path Study. Here’s a look at changes in team pay from 2009 to 2013.