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Interaction of instrumental and goal-directed learning modulates prediction error representations in the ventral striatum

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Citation

Guo, R., Böhmer, W., Hebart, M. N., Chien, S., Sommer, T., Obermayer, K., et al. (2016). Interaction of instrumental and goal-directed learning modulates prediction error representations in the ventral striatum. The Journal of Neuroscience, 36(50), 12650-12660. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1677-16.2016.


Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0005-2104-1
Abstract
Goal-directed and instrumental learning are both important controllers of human behavior. Learning about which stimulus event occurs in the environment and the reward associated with them allows humans to seek out the most valuable stimulus and move through the environment in a goal-directed manner. Stimulus–response associations are characteristic of instrumental learning, whereas response–outcome associations are the hallmark of goal-directed learning. Here we provide behavioral, computational, and neuroimaging results from a novel task in which stimulus–response and response–outcome associations are learned simultaneously but dominate behavior at different stages of the experiment. We found that prediction error representations in the ventral striatum depend on which type of learning dominates. Furthermore, the amygdala tracks the time-dependent weighting of stimulus–response versus response–outcome learning. Our findings suggest that the goal-directed and instrumental controllers dynamically engage the ventral striatum in representing prediction errors whenever one of them is dominating choice behavior.

SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Converging evidence in human neuroimaging studies has shown that the reward prediction errors are correlated with activity in the ventral striatum. Our results demonstrate that this region is simultaneously correlated with a stimulus prediction error. Furthermore, the learning system that is currently dominating behavioral choice dynamically engages the ventral striatum for computing its prediction errors. This demonstrates that the prediction error representations are highly dynamic and influenced by various experimental context. This finding points to a general role of the ventral striatum in detecting expectancy violations and encoding error signals regardless of the specific nature of the reinforcer itself.