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The flexibility in adjusting the decision strategy from trial to trial is a prerequisite for learning in a probabilistic environment. Corresponding neural underpinnings remain largely unexplored. In the present study, 28 male humans were engaged in an associative learning task, in which they had to learn the changing probabilistic strengths of tactile sample stimuli. Combining functional magnetic resonance imaging with computational modeling, we show that an unchanged decision strategy over successively presented trials related to weakened functional connectivity between ventralmedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and left secondary somatosensory cortex. The weaker the connection strength, the faster participants indicated their choice. If the decision strategy remained unchanged, participant's decision confidence (i.e., prior belief) was related to functional connectivity between vmPFC and right pulvinar. While adjusting the decision strategy, we instead found confidence-related connections between left orbitofrontal cortex and left thalamic mediodorsal nucleus. The stronger the participant's prior belief, the weaker the connection strengths. Together, these findings suggest that distinct thalamo-prefrontal pathways encode the confidence in keeping or changing the decision strategy during probabilistic learning. Low confidence in the decision strategy demands more thalamo-prefrontal processing resources, which is in-line with the theoretical accounts of the free-energy principle.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991)
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Mathematical or statistical procedures used as aids in making a decision. They are frequently used in medical decision-making.
Use of an interactive computer system designed to assist the physician or other health professional in choosing between certain relationships or variables for the purpose of making a diagnostic or therapeutic decision.
A scenario in decision analysis in which two individuals motivated entirely by self-preservation at the expense of the other, end up in a worse state than if they had cooperated with each other in the decision-making process.
The process of making a selective intellectual judgment when presented with several complex alternatives consisting of several variables, and usually defining a course of action or an idea.
Process in which individuals take the initiative, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying resources for learning, choosing and implementing learning strategies and evaluating learning outcomes (Knowles, 1975)