13 April 2016: Mapping cognitive states in learning & decision-making

Nicolas Schuck
Princeton Neuroscience Institute
Princeton University

Prefrontal representations of environmental states are commonly assumed to reflect a mental model of the world that guides learning, memory and decision-making. The nature of such state representations in the human brain is not well studied, however. In particular little is know about how the current state of the environment is reflected in frontal activity and how an established mental model is changed, a process that requires internal simulation and is important for the ability to make strategy improvements. I will present two studies in which we investigated such prefrontal state representations during stable task performance or sudden strategy changes. Results from fMRI pattern classification analyses showed that such representations can be decoded from orbitofrontal cortex and signals from medial PFC reflected internally simulated strategy changes.