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      Social learning through prediction error in the brain

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          Abstract

          Learning about the world is critical to survival and success. In social animals, learning about others is a necessary component of navigating the social world, ultimately contributing to increasing evolutionary fitness. How humans and nonhuman animals represent the internal states and experiences of others has long been a subject of intense interest in the developmental psychology tradition, and, more recently, in studies of learning and decision making involving self and other. In this review, we explore how psychology conceptualizes the process of representing others, and how neuroscience has uncovered correlates of reinforcement learning signals to explore the neural mechanisms underlying social learning from the perspective of representing reward-related information about self and other. In particular, we discuss self-referenced and other-referenced types of reward prediction errors across multiple brain structures that effectively allow reinforcement learning algorithms to mediate social learning. Prediction-based computational principles in the brain may be strikingly conserved between self-referenced and other-referenced information.

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          Most cited references 67

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          Empathy for pain involves the affective but not sensory components of pain.

          Our ability to have an experience of another's pain is characteristic of empathy. Using functional imaging, we assessed brain activity while volunteers experienced a painful stimulus and compared it to that elicited when they observed a signal indicating that their loved one--present in the same room--was receiving a similar pain stimulus. Bilateral anterior insula (AI), rostral anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), brainstem, and cerebellum were activated when subjects received pain and also by a signal that a loved one experienced pain. AI and ACC activation correlated with individual empathy scores. Activity in the posterior insula/secondary somatosensory cortex, the sensorimotor cortex (SI/MI), and the caudal ACC was specific to receiving pain. Thus, a neural response in AI and rostral ACC, activated in common for "self" and "other" conditions, suggests that the neural substrate for empathic experience does not involve the entire "pain matrix." We conclude that only that part of the pain network associated with its affective qualities, but not its sensory qualities, mediates empathy.
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            Empathic neural responses are modulated by the perceived fairness of others.

            The neural processes underlying empathy are a subject of intense interest within the social neurosciences. However, very little is known about how brain empathic responses are modulated by the affective link between individuals. We show here that empathic responses are modulated by learned preferences, a result consistent with economic models of social preferences. We engaged male and female volunteers in an economic game, in which two confederates played fairly or unfairly, and then measured brain activity with functional magnetic resonance imaging while these same volunteers observed the confederates receiving pain. Both sexes exhibited empathy-related activation in pain-related brain areas (fronto-insular and anterior cingulate cortices) towards fair players. However, these empathy-related responses were significantly reduced in males when observing an unfair person receiving pain. This effect was accompanied by increased activation in reward-related areas, correlated with an expressed desire for revenge. We conclude that in men (at least) empathic responses are shaped by valuation of other people's social behaviour, such that they empathize with fair opponents while favouring the physical punishment of unfair opponents, a finding that echoes recent evidence for altruistic punishment.
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              A framework for mesencephalic dopamine systems based on predictive Hebbian learning.

              We develop a theoretical framework that shows how mesencephalic dopamine systems could distribute to their targets a signal that represents information about future expectations. In particular, we show how activity in the cerebral cortex can make predictions about future receipt of reward and how fluctuations in the activity levels of neurons in diffuse dopamine systems above and below baseline levels would represent errors in these predictions that are delivered to cortical and subcortical targets. We present a model for how such errors could be constructed in a real brain that is consistent with physiological results for a subset of dopaminergic neurons located in the ventral tegmental area and surrounding dopaminergic neurons. The theory also makes testable predictions about human choice behavior on a simple decision-making task. Furthermore, we show that, through a simple influence on synaptic plasticity, fluctuations in dopamine release can act to change the predictions in an appropriate manner.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                +845-729-9934 , jessica.joiner@yale.edu
                Journal
                NPJ Sci Learn
                NPJ Sci Learn
                NPJ Science of Learning
                Nature Publishing Group UK (London )
                2056-7936
                16 June 2017
                16 June 2017
                2017
                : 2
                Affiliations
                [1 ]ISNI 0000000419368710, GRID grid.47100.32, Department of Psychology, , Yale University, ; New Haven, CT 06511 USA
                [2 ]ISNI 0000000419368710, GRID grid.47100.32, Department of Neuroscience, , Yale School of Medicine, ; New Haven, CT 06520 USA
                [3 ]ISNI 0000000419368710, GRID grid.47100.32, Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program, , Yale University School of Medicine, ; New Haven, CT 06510 USA
                Article
                9
                10.1038/s41539-017-0009-2
                6220304
                © The Author(s) 2017

                Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

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