Separable learning systems in the macaque brain and the role of orbitofrontal cortex in contingent learning.
Walton ME., Behrens TE., Buckley MJ., Rudebeck PH., Rushworth MF.
Orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) is widely held to be critical for flexibility in decision-making when established choice values change. OFC's role in such decision making was investigated in macaques performing dynamically changing three-armed bandit tasks. After selective OFC lesions, animals were impaired at discovering the identity of the highest value stimulus following reversals. However, this was not caused either by diminished behavioral flexibility or by insensitivity to reinforcement changes, but instead by paradoxical increases in switching between all stimuli. This pattern of choice behavior could be explained by a causal role for OFC in appropriate contingent learning, the process by which causal responsibility for a particular reward is assigned to a particular choice. After OFC lesions, animals' choice behavior no longer reflected the history of precise conjoint relationships between particular choices and particular rewards. Nonetheless, OFC-lesioned animals could still approximate choice-outcome associations using a recency-weighted history of choices and rewards.