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Many performances are learned through trial and error by matching performance to internal goals. Young birds learn to sing by comparing their song with an internal template. Recording from basal ganglia dopamine neurons in singing zebra finches showed that dopamine activity was suppressed after distorted syllables but was increased at the precise moment of the song when a predicted distortion did not occur. Thus dopaminergic error signals can evaluate behaviors that are not learned for reward but instead are learned by matching performance outcomes to internal goals.