Dissociating encoding of attention, errors, and value in outcome-related neural activity

Matthew R. Roesch and Geoffrey Schoenbaum

in Decision Making, Affect, and Learning

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199600434
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191725623 | DOI:

Series: Attention and Performance

Dissociating encoding of attention, errors, and value in outcome-related neural activity

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In numerous brain areas, neuronal activity varies according to reward predictability. In many of these areas this activity is thought to represent errors in reward prediction, as has been described for dopamine neurons; however, it might alternatively be related to the animal's enhanced behavioural state, which may include surprise or changes in arousal or attention. Unfortunately, few studies have examined firing in these areas in the context of the same behavioural task, making it difficult to dissociate different types of encoding. This chapter compares neural correlates in these areas to that of dopamine neurons in the same behavioural task. It shows that while activity in dopamine neurons appears to signal prediction errors, similar activity in the orbitofrontal cortex, basolateral amygdala, and ventral striatum does not. Instead, increased firing in basolateral amygdala to unexpected outcomes likely reflects attention, whereas activity in the orbitofrontal cortex and ventral striatum is unaffected by prior expectations and may provide information on outcome expectancy. These results have important implications for how these areas interact to facilitate learning and guide behaviour.

Keywords: neurons; dopamine; prediction errors; basolateral amygdala; attention; outcome expectancy

Chapter.  5833 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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