Behavioral neuroscience

Effects of inference on dopaminergic prediction errors depend on orbitofrontal processing.

PMID 28301188


Dopaminergic reward prediction errors in monkeys reflect inferential reward predictions that well-trained animals can make when associative rules change. Here, in a new analysis of previously described data, we test whether dopaminergic error signals in rats are influenced by inferential predictions and whether such effects depend on the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). Dopamine neurons were recorded from controls or rats with ipsilateral OFC lesions during performance of a choice task in which odor cues signaled the availability of sucrose reward in 2 wells. To induce prediction errors, we manipulated either the timing or number of rewards delivered in each well across blocks of trials. Of importance, a change in reward at 1 well predicted a change in reward at the other on later trials. We compared behavior and neural activity on trials when such inference was possible versus trials involving the same reward change when inference was not possible. Rats responded faster when they could infer an increase in reward compared to when the same reward was coming but they could not infer a change. This inferential prediction was reflected in the firing of dopamine neurons in controls, which changed less to unexpected delivery (or omission) of reward and more to the new high-value cue on inference versus noninference trials. These effects were absent in dopamine neurons recorded in rats with ipsilateral OFC lesions. Thus, dopaminergic error signals recorded in rats are influenced by both experiential and inferential reward predictions, and the effects of inferential predictions depend on OFC. (PsycINFO Database Record