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Sarno, Stefania; de Lafuente, Victor; Romo, Ranulfo; Parga, Nestor (2017)

DOPAMINE REWARD PREDICTION ERROR SIGNAL CODES THE TEMPORAL EVALUATION OF A PERCEPTUAL DECISION REPORT

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 114(48):E10494-E10503
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Learning to associate unambiguous sensory cues with rewarded choices is known to be mediated by dopamine (DA) neurons. However, little is known about how these neurons behave when choices rely on uncertain reward-predicting stimuli. To study this issue we reanalyzed DA recordings from monkeys engaged in the detection of weak tactile stimuli delivered at random times and formulated a reinforcement learning model based on belief states. Specifically, we investigated how the firing activity of DA neurons should behave if they were coding the error in the prediction of the total future reward when animals made decisions relying on uncertain sensory and temporal information. Our results show that the same signal that codes for reward prediction errors also codes the animal's certainty about the presence of the stimulus and the temporal expectation of sensory cues.