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Published March 7, 2019 | Published + Supplemental Material
Journal Article Open

Evidence for model-based encoding of Pavlovian contingencies in the human brain


Prominent accounts of Pavlovian conditioning successfully approximate the frequency and intensity of conditioned responses under the assumption that learning is exclusively model-free; that animals do not develop a cognitive map of events. However, these model-free approximations fall short of comprehensively capturing learning and behavior in Pavlovian conditioning. We therefore performed multivoxel pattern analysis of high-resolution functional MRI data in human participants to test for the encoding of stimulus-stimulus associations that could support model-based computations during Pavlovian conditioning. We found that dissociable sub-regions of the striatum encode predictions of stimulus-stimulus associations and predictive value, in a manner that is directly related to learning performance. Activity patterns in the orbitofrontal cortex were also found to be related to stimulus-stimulus as well as value encoding. These results suggest that the brain encodes model-based representations during Pavlovian conditioning, and that these representations are utilized in the service of behavior.

Additional Information

© The Author(s) 2019. Open Access. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. Received: 24 March 2018. Accepted: 16 January 2019. Published 07 March 2019. The authors would like to thank Dr. Jane E. Barker and the members of the O'Doherty laboratory for helpful discussions. This work was supported by grant R01DA040011 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Author Contributions: Conceptualization: W.M.P. and J.P.O.; Methodology: W.M.P., G.G., S.C., J.M.T.; Investigation: W.M.P.; Writing—Original Draft: W.M.P and J.P.O.; Funding Acquisition: J.P.O.; Supervision: J.P.O. Code availability: Computer code used for preprocessing the data and analyzing the data is available in a publicly hosted software repository [https://github.com/wmpauli/mb_pavlovian_mvpa]. Data availability: Raw, de-identified MRI data are available at the Open Science Framework [https://doi.org/10.17605/OSF.IO/CHFNW]. The authors declare no competing interests.

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Supplemental Material - 41467_2019_8922_MOESM2_ESM.pdf


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