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Published June 19, 2020 | Supplemental Material + Submitted + Published
Journal Article Open

The value of what's to come: Neural mechanisms coupling prediction error and the utility of anticipation


Having something to look forward to is a keystone of well-being. Anticipation of future reward, such as an upcoming vacation, can often be more gratifying than the experience itself. Theories suggest the utility of anticipation underpins various behaviors, ranging from beneficial information-seeking to harmful addiction. However, how neural systems compute anticipatory utility remains unclear. We analyzed the brain activity of human participants as they performed a task involving choosing whether to receive information predictive of future pleasant outcomes. Using a computational model, we show three brain regions orchestrate anticipatory utility. Specifically, ventromedial prefrontal cortex tracks the value of anticipatory utility, dopaminergic midbrain correlates with information that enhances anticipation, while sustained hippocampal activity mediates a functional coupling between these regions. Our findings suggest a previously unidentified neural underpinning for anticipation's influence over decision-making and unify a range of phenomena associated with risk and time-delay preference.

Additional Information

© 2020 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 (CC BY). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution license, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Received for publication November 28, 2019. Accepted for publication May 7, 2020. We thank T. Behrens for his insightful suggestion for the Fourier phase-randomization test. We thank C. Camerer, O. Hikosaka, G. Loewenstein, S. Romani, E. Bromberg-Martin, J. Gotlieb, E. Ludvig, Y. Liu, B. Blain, G. Story, L. Hunt, J. Cockburn, V. Man, T. Aquino, C. Charpentier, B. Fung, W. Pauli, and E. Burkett for the most valuable discussions and helpful suggestions for the manuscript. We also thank radiographers at the UCL for their assistance in running fMRI experiments. This work was funded by the Max Planck Society, the Gatsby Foundation, Wellcome Trust Investigator Award, the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, the Swartz Foundation, Wellcome Sir Henry Dale Fellowship (211155/Z/18/Z), the Jacobs Foundation (2017-1261-04), the Medical Research Foundation, The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, and 2018 NARSAD Young Investigator grant (27023) from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation. Author contributions: K.I., Z.K.-N., P.D., and R.J.D. designed the project. K.I. and Z.K.-N. performed the experiment. K.I., T.U.H., Z.K-N., J.P.O., P.D., and R.J.D. analyzed and discussed the results and wrote the manuscript. The authors declare that they have no competing interests. Data and materials availability: All data needed to evaluate the conclusions in the paper are present in the paper and/or the Supplementary Materials. Additional data related to this paper is available on NeuroVault [https://neurovault.org/collections/DXZZFYSF/].

Attached Files

Published - eaba3828.full.pdf

Submitted - 588699.full.pdf

Supplemental Material - aba3828_SM.pdf


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Additional details

August 19, 2023
October 20, 2023