Identity prediction errors in the human midbrain update reward-identity expectations in the orbitofrontal cortex

James D. Howard, Thorsten Kahnt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Scopus citations


There is general consensus that dopaminergic midbrain neurons signal reward prediction errors, computed as the difference between expected and received reward value. However, recent work in rodents shows that these neurons also respond to errors related to inferred value and sensory features, indicating an expanded role for dopamine beyond learning cached values. Here we utilize a transreinforcer reversal learning task and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to test whether prediction error signals in the human midbrain are evoked when the expected identity of an appetitive food odor reward is violated, while leaving value matched. We found that midbrain fMRI responses to identity and value errors are correlated, suggesting a common neural origin for these error signals. Moreover, changes in reward-identity expectations, encoded in the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), are directly related to midbrain activity, demonstrating that identity-based error signals in the midbrain support the formation of outcome identity expectations in OFC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1611
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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