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Distinguished Speaker Series: Jacqueline Gottlieb (hosted by Martin Rolfs): Curiosity and information demand: how we can study them and why we should care
Curiosity and information demand: how we can study them and why we should care
A rapidly growing literature has recently emphasized the importance of our sense-making instincts, including complex investigative behaviors such as curiosity, for behavior and brain function. While much of this literature has focused on simple forms of decision making, we explored its significance for attention allocation. To make adaptive decisions in realistic multi-dimensional environments, animals must infer the relevant features and afford them priority for the control of learning and actions. Prioritizing sources of information is the role of executive control and attention, but its neural mechanisms are poorly understood. I will review studies of information demand suggesting that the fronto-parietal network encodes both optimal and non-optimal mechanisms for attentional prioritization. Converging evidence shows that parietal neurons encode prior uncertainty and likelihood, two quantities required for Bayesian prioritization that maximizes the reduction in uncertainty. However, the neurons also encode priority based on hedonic stimulus-reward associations, in ways that seem non-optimal and interfere with the reduction of uncertainty. Continued studies of information demand will shed light on the vital question of how animals make complex decisions in realistic settings – specifically, how they endogenously assign salience or priority to competing sources of information that subsequently control learning and actions.
Jacqueline Gottlieb, Department of Neuroscience, The Kavli Institute for Brain Science, The Zuckerman Institute for Mind Brain and Behavior, Columbia University, New York, NY, 10032, www.gottlieblab.com
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