• Rethinking dopamine as generalized prediction error

      Gardner, M.P.H.; Schoenbaum, G.; Gershman, S.J. (Royal Society Publishing, 2018)
      Midbrain dopamine neurons are commonly thought to report a reward prediction error (RPE), as hypothesized by reinforcement learning (RL) theory. While this theory has been highly successful, several lines of evidence suggest that dopamine activity also encodes sensory prediction errors unrelated to reward. Here, we develop a new theory of dopamine function that embraces a broader conceptualization of prediction errors. By signalling errors in both sensory and reward predictions, dopamine supports a form of RL that lies between model-based and model-free algorithms. This account remains consistent with current canon regarding the correspondence between dopamine transients and RPEs, while also accounting for new data suggesting a role for these signals in phenomena such as sensory preconditioning and identity unblocking, which ostensibly draw upon knowledge beyond reward predictions. � 2018 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.