Dopamine neurons share common response function for reward prediction error
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CitationEshel, Neir, Ju Tian, Michael Bukwich, and Naoshige Uchida. 2016. “Dopamine Neurons Share Common Response Function for Reward Prediction Error.” Nature Neuroscience 19 (3) (February 8): 479–486. doi:10.1038/nn.4239.
AbstractDopamine neurons are thought to signal reward prediction error, or the difference between actual and predicted reward. How dopamine neurons jointly encode this information, however, remains unclear. One possibility is that different neurons specialize in different aspects of prediction error; another is that each neuron calculates prediction error in the same way. We recorded from optogenetically-identified dopamine neurons in the lateral ventral tegmental area (VTA) while mice performed classical conditioning tasks. Our tasks allowed us to determine the full input-output functions of dopamine neurons and compare them to each other. We found striking homogeneity among individual dopamine neurons: their responses to both unexpected and expected rewards followed the same function, just scaled up or down. As a result, we could describe both individual and population responses using just two parameters. Such uniformity ensures robust information coding, allowing each dopamine neuron to contribute fully to the prediction error signal.
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