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Hierarchical prediction errors in midbrain and septum during social learning


Diaconesu, A O; Mathys, Christoph; Weber, L A E; Kasper, Lars; Mauer, J; Stephan, K E (2017). Hierarchical prediction errors in midbrain and septum during social learning. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 12(4):618-634.

Abstract

Social learning is fundamental to human interactions, yet its computational and physiological mechanisms are not well understood. One prominent open question concerns the role of neuromodulatory transmitters. We combined fMRI, computational modelling, and genetics to address this question in two separate samples (N=35, N=47). Participants played a game requiring inference on an advisor's intentions whose motivation to help or mislead changed over time. Our analyses suggest that hierarchically structured belief updates about current advice validity and the adviser's trustworthiness, respectively, depend on different neuromodulatory systems. Low-level prediction errors (PEs) about advice accuracy not only activated regions known to support "theory of mind", but also the dopaminergic midbrain. Furthermore, PE responses in ventral striatum were influenced by the Met/Val polymorphism of the Catechol-O-Methyltransferase (COMT) gene. By contrast, high-level PEs ("expected uncertainty") about the adviser's fidelity activated the cholinergic septum. These findings, replicated in both samples, have important implications: They suggest that social learning rests on hierarchically related PEs encoded by midbrain and septum activity, respectively, in the same manner as other forms of learning under volatility. Furthermore, these hierarchical PEs may be broadcast by dopaminergic and cholinergic projections to induce plasticity specifically in cortical areas known to represent beliefs about others.

Abstract

Social learning is fundamental to human interactions, yet its computational and physiological mechanisms are not well understood. One prominent open question concerns the role of neuromodulatory transmitters. We combined fMRI, computational modelling, and genetics to address this question in two separate samples (N=35, N=47). Participants played a game requiring inference on an advisor's intentions whose motivation to help or mislead changed over time. Our analyses suggest that hierarchically structured belief updates about current advice validity and the adviser's trustworthiness, respectively, depend on different neuromodulatory systems. Low-level prediction errors (PEs) about advice accuracy not only activated regions known to support "theory of mind", but also the dopaminergic midbrain. Furthermore, PE responses in ventral striatum were influenced by the Met/Val polymorphism of the Catechol-O-Methyltransferase (COMT) gene. By contrast, high-level PEs ("expected uncertainty") about the adviser's fidelity activated the cholinergic septum. These findings, replicated in both samples, have important implications: They suggest that social learning rests on hierarchically related PEs encoded by midbrain and septum activity, respectively, in the same manner as other forms of learning under volatility. Furthermore, these hierarchical PEs may be broadcast by dopaminergic and cholinergic projections to induce plasticity specifically in cortical areas known to represent beliefs about others.

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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:2017
Deposited On:03 Feb 2017 10:06
Last Modified:06 Aug 2017 21:14
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:1749-5016
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsw171
PubMed ID:28119508

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Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)

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