Anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is thought to control a wide range of reward, punishment, and uncertainty-related behaviors. However, how it does so is unclear. Here, in a Pavlovian procedure in which monkeys displayed a diverse repertoire of reward-related, punishment-related, and uncertainty-related behaviors, we show that many ACC-neurons represent expected value and uncertainty in a valence-specific manner, signaling value or uncertainty predictions about either rewards or punishments. Other ACC-neurons signal prediction information about rewards and punishments by displaying excitation to both (rather than excitation to one and inhibition to the other). This diversity in valence representations may support the role of ACC in many behavioral states that are either enhanced by reward and punishment (e.g., vigilance) or specific to either reward or punishment (e.g., approach and avoidance). Also, this first demonstration of punishment-uncertainty signals in the brain suggests that ACC could be a target for the treatment of uncertainty-related disorders of mood.
Rewards or punishments elicit diverse behavioral responses; however, the neural circuits underlying such flexibility are unclear. Here Monosov shows that this diversity could be supported by neurons in the anterior cingulate that represent expected value and uncertainty in a valence-specific manner.