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Eur J Neurosci. 2012 Apr;35(7):991-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2011.07982.x.

Model-based learning and the contribution of the orbitofrontal cortex to the model-free world.

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University of Maryland School of Medicine, 20 Penn St HSF-2, S251 Baltimore, MD, USA.


Learning is proposed to occur when there is a discrepancy between reward prediction and reward receipt. At least two separate systems are thought to exist: one in which predictions are proposed to be based on model-free or cached values; and another in which predictions are model-based. A basic neural circuit for model-free reinforcement learning has already been described. In the model-free circuit the ventral striatum (VS) is thought to supply a common-currency reward prediction to midbrain dopamine neurons that compute prediction errors and drive learning. In a model-based system, predictions can include more information about an expected reward, such as its sensory attributes or current, unique value. This detailed prediction allows for both behavioral flexibility and learning driven by changes in sensory features of rewards alone. Recent evidence from animal learning and human imaging suggests that, in addition to model-free information, the VS also signals model-based information. Further, there is evidence that the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) signals model-based information. Here we review these data and suggest that the OFC provides model-based information to this traditional model-free circuitry and offer possibilities as to how this interaction might occur.

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