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Neuroscience Brown Bag Series

Thursday, November 30, 2017,
  • Location: Wilson Hall • 111 21St Ave S • Nashville, TN 37240
  • Room: 316

Thilo Womelsdorf, PhD

Department of Psychology

Vanderbilt University

Behavioral Flexibility through Attention-Weighted Reinforcement Learning in Fronto-Striatal Circuits 

Attention is believed to be particularly important for fast behavioral adjustment in complex environments. One reason for this belief is that focusing attention onto subsets of visual features lead to rapid recognition about which visual features are relevant and irrelevant.

In this talk I summarize a line of research that aims to elucidate the neural mechanisms underlying such attention-mediated, fast learning in complex visual environments. 

The talk will first survey recent evidence for attention weighted visual reinforcement learning in behavioral experiments. In a second part evidence from neuronal recordings is presented, revealing a specific role of the ventral striatum and caudate nucleus to encode learning signals (prediction errors) specifically for attended stimulus features. The presented evidence points to a role of the basal ganglia to inform prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortex neurons about the most likely goal-relevant features in our environments.