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Neural basis of learning guided by sensory confidence and reward value

By Armin Lak, Michael Okun, Morgane Moss, Harsha Gurnani, Karolina Farrell, Miles J. Wells, Charu Bai Reddy, Adam Kepecs, Kenneth D Harris, Matteo Carandini

Posted 07 Sep 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/411413

Making efficient decisions requires combining present sensory evidence with previous reward values, and learning from the resulting outcome. To establish the underlying neural processes, we trained mice in a task that probed such decisions. Mouse choices conformed to a reinforcement learning model that estimates predicted value (reward value times sensory confidence) and prediction error (outcome minus predicted value). Predicted value was encoded in the pre-outcome activity of prelimbic frontal neurons and midbrain dopamine neurons. Prediction error was encoded in the post-outcome activity of dopamine neurons, which reflected not only reward value but also sensory confidence. Manipulations of these signals spared ongoing choices but profoundly affected subsequent learning. Learning depended on the pre-outcome activity of prelimbic neurons, but not dopamine neurons. Learning also depended on the post-outcome activity of dopamine neurons, but not prelimbic neurons. These results reveal the distinct roles of frontal and dopamine neurons in learning under uncertainty.

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