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Pharmalogical fingerprints of contextual uncertainty


Marshall, L; Mathys, C; Ruge, D; de Berker, A O; Dayan, P; Stephan, K E; Bestmann, S (2016). Pharmalogical fingerprints of contextual uncertainty. PLoS Biology, 14(11):e1002575.

Abstract

Successful interaction with the environment requires flexible updating of our beliefs about the world. By estimating the likelihood of future events, it is possible to prepare appropriate actions in advance and execute fast, accurate motor responses. According to theoretical proposals, agents track the variability arising from changing environments by computing various forms of uncertainty. Several neuromodulators have been linked to uncertainty signalling, but comprehensive empirical characterisation of their relative contributions to perceptual belief updating, and to the selection of motor responses, is lacking. Here we assess the roles of noradrenaline, acetylcholine, and dopamine within a single, unified computational framework of uncertainty. Using pharmacological interventions in a sample of 128 healthy human volunteers and a hierarchical Bayesian learning model, we characterise the influences of noradrenergic, cholinergic, and dopaminergic receptor antagonism on individual computations of uncertainty during a probabilistic serial reaction time task. We propose that noradrenaline influences learning of uncertain events arising from unexpected changes in the environment. In contrast, acetylcholine balances attribution of uncertainty to chance fluctuations within an environmental context, defined by a stable set of probabilistic associations, or to gross environmental violations following a contextual switch. Dopamine supports the use of uncertainty representations to engender fast, adaptive responses.

Abstract

Successful interaction with the environment requires flexible updating of our beliefs about the world. By estimating the likelihood of future events, it is possible to prepare appropriate actions in advance and execute fast, accurate motor responses. According to theoretical proposals, agents track the variability arising from changing environments by computing various forms of uncertainty. Several neuromodulators have been linked to uncertainty signalling, but comprehensive empirical characterisation of their relative contributions to perceptual belief updating, and to the selection of motor responses, is lacking. Here we assess the roles of noradrenaline, acetylcholine, and dopamine within a single, unified computational framework of uncertainty. Using pharmacological interventions in a sample of 128 healthy human volunteers and a hierarchical Bayesian learning model, we characterise the influences of noradrenergic, cholinergic, and dopaminergic receptor antagonism on individual computations of uncertainty during a probabilistic serial reaction time task. We propose that noradrenaline influences learning of uncertain events arising from unexpected changes in the environment. In contrast, acetylcholine balances attribution of uncertainty to chance fluctuations within an environmental context, defined by a stable set of probabilistic associations, or to gross environmental violations following a contextual switch. Dopamine supports the use of uncertainty representations to engender fast, adaptive responses.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Biomedical Engineering
Dewey Decimal Classification:170 Ethics
610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:2016
Deposited On:03 Feb 2017 14:41
Last Modified:02 Feb 2018 11:48
Publisher:Public Library of Science (PLoS)
ISSN:1544-9173
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1002575
PubMed ID:27846219

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