Computational Psychiatry & Decision-making

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  • blog doi pdf Dissociating neural learning signals in human sign- and goal-trackers
  • Schad DJ, Rapp MA, Garbusow M, Nebe S, Sebold M, Obst E, Sommer C, Deserno L, Rabovsky M, Friedel E, Romanczuk-Seiferth N, Wittchen H-U, Zimmermann US, Walter H, Sterzer P, Smolka MN, Schlagenhauf F, Heinz A, Dayan P, Huys QJM
  • Nat. Hum. Behav. (2020) 4:201-214
  • Individuals differ in how they learn from experience. In Pavlovian conditioning paradigms, where cues predict reinforcer delivery at a different goal location, some animals--so-called sign-trackers--come to approach the cue, whereas others, called `goal-trackers', approach the goal. In sign-trackers, model-free phasic dopaminergic reward prediction errors underlie learning, which renders stimuli `wanted'. `Goal-trackers' do not rely on dopamine for learning and are thought to use model-based learning. We demonstrate this double dissociation in male humans using eye-tracking, pupillometry and fMRI informed by computational models. We show that only sign- trackers exhibit a neural reward prediction error signal. Only for them is gaze and pupil dilation guided by model-free value. Goal-trackers exhibit a stronger model-based neural state prediction error signal. Only for them do model-based constructs determine gaze and pupil dilation. As sign-tracking may be a vulnerability factor for impulsive and addictive behavior, these findings have implications for mental health.