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Free energy, precision and learning: the role of cholinergic neuromodulation


Moran, R J; Campo, P; Symmonds, M; Stephan, K E; Dolan, R J; Friston, K J (2013). Free energy, precision and learning: the role of cholinergic neuromodulation. Journal of Neuroscience, 33(19):8227-8236.

Abstract

Acetylcholine (ACh) is a neuromodulatory transmitter implicated in perception and learning under uncertainty. This study combined computational simulations and pharmaco-electroencephalography in humans, to test a formulation of perceptual inference based upon the free energy principle. This formulation suggests that ACh enhances the precision of bottom-up synaptic transmission in cortical hierarchies by optimizing the gain of supragranular pyramidal cells. Simulations of a mismatch negativity paradigm predicted a rapid trial-by-trial suppression of evoked sensory prediction error (PE) responses that is attenuated by cholinergic neuromodulation. We confirmed this prediction empirically with a placebo-controlled study of cholinesterase inhibition. Furthermore, using dynamic causal modeling, we found that drug-induced differences in PE responses could be explained by gain modulation in supragranular pyramidal cells in primary sensory cortex. This suggests that ACh adaptively enhances sensory precision by boosting bottom-up signaling when stimuli are predictable, enabling the brain to respond optimally under different levels of environmental uncertainty.

Abstract

Acetylcholine (ACh) is a neuromodulatory transmitter implicated in perception and learning under uncertainty. This study combined computational simulations and pharmaco-electroencephalography in humans, to test a formulation of perceptual inference based upon the free energy principle. This formulation suggests that ACh enhances the precision of bottom-up synaptic transmission in cortical hierarchies by optimizing the gain of supragranular pyramidal cells. Simulations of a mismatch negativity paradigm predicted a rapid trial-by-trial suppression of evoked sensory prediction error (PE) responses that is attenuated by cholinergic neuromodulation. We confirmed this prediction empirically with a placebo-controlled study of cholinesterase inhibition. Furthermore, using dynamic causal modeling, we found that drug-induced differences in PE responses could be explained by gain modulation in supragranular pyramidal cells in primary sensory cortex. This suggests that ACh adaptively enhances sensory precision by boosting bottom-up signaling when stimuli are predictable, enabling the brain to respond optimally under different levels of environmental uncertainty.

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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:8 May 2013
Deposited On:03 Sep 2013 11:41
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 16:47
Publisher:Society for Neuroscience
ISSN:0270-6474
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4255-12.2013

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