Latest issue of Neuron went up this morning.
Check out #1: Neural Differentiation of Expected Reward and Risk in Human Subcortical Structures by Kerstin Preuschoff, Peter Bossaerts, and Steven R. Quartz. Abstract:
In decision-making under uncertainty, economic studies emphasize the importance of risk in addition to expected reward. Studies in neuroscience focus on expected reward and learning rather than risk. We combined functional imaging with a simple gambling task to vary expected reward and risk simultaneously and in an uncorrelated manner. Drawing on financial decision theory, we modeled expected reward as mathematical expectation of reward, and risk as reward variance. Activations in dopaminoceptive structures correlated with both mathematical parameters. These activations differentiated spatially and temporally. Temporally, the activation related to expected reward was immediate, while the activation related to risk was delayed. Analyses confirmed that our paradigm minimized confounds from learning, motivation, and salience. These results suggest that the primary task of the dopaminergic system is to convey signals of upcoming stochastic rewards, such as expected reward and risk, beyond its role in learning, motivation, and salience.
Check out #2: Absolute Coding of Stimulus Novelty in the Human Substantia Nigra/VTA by Nico Bunzeck and Emrah Düze. Abstract:
Novelty exploration can enhance hippocampal plasticity in animals through dopaminergic neuromodulation arising in the substantia nigra/ventral tegmental area (SN/VTA). This enhancement can outlast the exploration phase by several minutes. Currently, little is known about dopaminergic novelty processing and its relationship to hippocampal function in humans. In two functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies, SN/VTA activations in humans were indeed driven by stimulus novelty rather than other forms of stimulus salience such as rareness, negative emotional valence, or targetness of familiar stimuli, whereas hippocampal responses were less selective. SN/VTA novelty responses were scaled according to absolute rather than relative novelty in a given context, unlike adaptive SN/VTA responses recently reported for reward outcome in animal studies. Finally, novelty enhanced learning and perirhinal/parahippocampal processing of familiar items presented in the same context. Thus, the human SN/VTA can code absolute stimulus novelty and might contribute to enhancing learning in the context of novelty.