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Pure correlates of exploration and exploitation in the human brain

Pure correlates of exploration and exploitation in the human brain

Published in: Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, Volume 18, Issue 1, 117-126

“Balancing exploration and exploitation is a fundamental problem in reinforcement learning. Previous neuroimaging studies of the exploration–exploitation dilemma could not completely disentangle these two processes, making it difficult to unambiguously identify their neural signatures. We overcome this problem using a task in which subjects can either observe (pure exploration) or bet (pure exploitation). Insula and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex showed significantly greater activity on observe trials compared to bet trials, suggesting that these regions play a role in driving exploration. A model-based analysis of task performance suggested that subjects chose to observe until a critical evidence threshold was reached. We observed a neural signature of this evidence accumulation process in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. These findings support theories positing an important role for anterior cingulate cortex in exploration, while also providing a new perspective on the roles of insula and ventromedial prefrontal cortex.”

Written by: Tommy C. Blanchard, Samuel J. Gershmann
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