Dopamine neuron ensembles signal the content of sensory prediction errors [article]

Thomas Stalnaker, James Howard, Yuji Takahashi, Samuel J Gershman, Thorsten Kahnt, Geoffrey Schoenbaum
2019 bioRxiv   pre-print
Dopamine neurons respond to errors in predicting value-neutral sensory information. These data, combined with causal evidence that dopamine transients support sensory-based associative learning, suggest that the dopamine system signals a multidimensional prediction error. Yet such complexity is not evident in individual neuron or average neural activity. How then do downstream areas know what to learn in response to these signals? One possibility is that information about content is contained
more » ... the pattern of firing across many dopamine neurons. Consistent with this, here we show that the pattern of firing across a small group of dopamine neurons recorded in rats signals the identity of a mis-predicted sensory event. Further, this same information is reflected in the BOLD response elicited by sensory prediction errors in human midbrain. These data provide evidence that ensembles of dopamine neurons provide highly specific teaching signals, opening new possibilities for how this system might contribute to learning.
doi:10.1101/723908 fatcat:smucn2gsfbgshmbljq2qrbh22u