Wednesday 9 September 2009
Seminar Room B10 (Basement)
Alexandra House, 17 Queen Square, London, WC1N 3AR
A neural pathway for information-seeking
The desire for knowledge about the future is a powerful motivator in everyday life, but it is unknown how this desire is created by neurons in the brain. Here I will present a candidate for this role in the spiking activity of midbrain dopamine neurons. I will show that rhesus monkeys prefer to view informative visual cues that indicate the size of upcoming rewards. The same dopamine neurons that signal the animal's expectation of primary rewards like water also signal the preference for advance information about those rewards. This combined code for appetitive and informational rewards is also present in a major source of input to dopamine neurons, the lateral habenula. These findings suggest a new view of reward learning, in which information-seeking has a fundamental role.