Schiffer et al. (2012)

Schiffer, A. M., Ahlheim, C., Wurm, M.F., Schubotz, R.I. (2012). Surprised at all the Entropy: Hippocampal, Caudate and Midbrain Contributions to Learning from Prediction Errors. PLOS ONE, 7(5), e36445.

Influential concepts in neuroscientific research cast the brain a predictive machine that revises its predictions when they are violated by sensory input. This relates to the predictive coding account of perception, but also to learning. Learning from prediction errors has been suggested for take place in the hippocampal memory system as well as in the basal ganglia. The present fMRI study used an action-observation paradigm to investigate the contributions of the hippocampus, caudate nucleus and midbrain dopaminergic system to different types of learning: learning in the absence of prediction errors, learning from prediction errors, and responding to the accumulation of prediction errors in unpredictable stimulus configurations. We conducted analyses of the regions of interests? BOLD response towards these different types of learning, implementing a bootstrapping procedure to correct for false positives. We found both, caudate nucleus and the hippocampus to be activated by perceptual prediction errors. The hippocampal responses seemed to relate to the associative mismatch between a stored representation and current sensory input. Moreover, its response was significantly influenced by the average information, or Shannon entropy of the stimulus material. In accordance with earlier results, the habenula was activated by perceptual prediction errors. Lastly, we found that the substantia nigra was activated by the novelty of sensory input. In sum, we established that the midbrain dopaminergic system, the hippocampus, and the caudate nucleus were to different degrees significantly involved in the three different types of learning: acquisition of new information, learning from prediction errors and responding to unpredictable stimulus developments. We relate learning from perceptual prediction errors to the concept of predictive coding and related information theoretic accounts.

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