Sci. STKE, 25 March 2003
NEUROBIOLOGY Neurons that Code for Uncertainty
In the classic Pavlovian experiment, dogs associate the ringing of a bell with subsequent presentation of food. It has since been shown that dopaminergic neurons in the ventral midbrain respond (by spiking) to stimuli that predict the subsequent arrival of rewards. In trials where the reward does not appear, there is a corresponding drop in the activity of these neurons. These findings led to the proposal that the information encoded by these neurons is the prediction error, or the difference between actual and predicted rewards. Fiorillo et al. (see the Perspective by Shizgal and Arvanitogiannis) now find a new population of dopaminergic neurons that appear to encode reward uncertainty; the activity of these neurons increases as the delivery of reward becomes less certain.
Citation: Neurons that Code for Uncertainty. Sci. STKE 2003, tw123 (2003).
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