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Humans and animals construct internal models of their environment in order to select appropriate courses of action. The representation of uncertainty about the current state of the environment is a key feature of these models that controls the rate of learning as well as directly affecting choice behaviour. To maintain flexibility, given that uncertainty naturally decreases over time, most theoretical inference models include a dedicated mechanism to drive up model uncertainty. Here we probe the long-standing hypothesis that noradrenaline is involved in determining the uncertainty, or entropy, and thus flexibility, of neural models. Pupil diameter, which indexes neuromodulatory state including noradrenaline release, predicted increases (but not decreases) in entropy in a neural state model encoded in human medial orbitofrontal cortex, as measured using multivariate functional MRI. Activity in anterior cingulate cortex predicted pupil diameter. These results provide evidence for top-down, neuromodulatory control of entropy in neural state models.

Original publication

DOI

10.7554/eLife.39404

Type

Journal article

Journal

Elife

Publication Date

28/02/2019

Volume

8

Keywords

flexibility, human, inference, learning, neural models, neuromodulators, neuroscience