Certain basal forebrain neurons encode the learned reinforcement value of objects: they respond differentially to visual stimuli that signal availability of fruit juice (positively reinforcing) or saline (negatively reinforcing) obtained by lick responses in visual discrimination tasks. In this report we describe the rapid, learning- related changes in the responses of these neurons during the acquisition and reversal of the reinforcement contingency of a visual discrimination reversal task. The same neurons also responded differentially to novel and familiar stimuli in 2 recognition memory tasks, in which monkeys applied the learned rule that lick responses to novel stimuli elicited saline and responses to familiar stimuli elicited juice. These differential responses to novel and familiar stimuli thus reflected the reinforcement value of the stimuli. A single presentation of a novel or a familiar stimulus was sufficient to elicit a differential response which was maintained even when the stimulus had not been seen recently. The maintenance of the differential response indicates that these neurons are influenced by a durable memory for the stimuli, estimated to be 30 trials on average. These differential neurons were recorded in the substantia innominata, the diagonal band of Broca, and a periventricular region of the basal forebrain. The responses of the reinforcement-related neurons in these 3 regions were similar in most respects. These results support the conclusion that basal forebrain neurons respond to sensory stimuli that, through learning of different contingencies, signal the availability of reinforcement. We suggest that the properties of learning and memory reflected in these neuronal responses are due to afferent pathways from ventromedial regions of the prefrontal and temporal cortices and the amygdala, and that the responses of these neurons provide an enabling mechanism that facilitates the operation of diverse cortical regions in which specific sensory, motor, or mnemonic functions take place.