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Hypotheses and beliefs guide credit assignment - the process of determining which previous events or actions caused an outcome. Adaptive hypothesis formation and testing are crucial in uncertain and changing environments in which associations and meanings are volatile. Despite primates' abilities to form and test hypotheses, establishing what is causally responsible for the occurrence of particular outcomes remains a fundamental challenge for credit assignment and learning. Hypotheses about what surprises are due to stochasticity inherent in an environment as opposed to real, systematic changes are necessary for identifying the environment's predictive features, but are often hard to test. We review evidence that two highly interconnected frontal cortical regions, anterior cingulate cortex and ventrolateral prefrontal area 47/12o, provide a biological substrate for linking two crucial components of hypothesis-formation and testing: the control of information seeking and credit assignment. Neuroimaging, targeted disruptions, and neurophysiological studies link an anterior cingulate - 47/12o circuit to generation of exploratory behaviour, non-instrumental information seeking, and interpretation of subsequent feedback in the service of credit assignment. Our observations support the idea that information seeking and credit assignment are linked at the level of neural circuits and explain why this circuit is important for ensuring behaviour is flexible and adaptive.

Original publication

DOI

10.1038/s41386-021-01079-2

Type

Journal article

Journal

Neuropsychopharmacology

Publication Date

07/07/2021