A neural network for information seeking

J. Kael White, Ethan S. Bromberg-Martin, Sarah R. Heilbronner, Kaining Zhang, Julia Pai, Suzanne N. Haber, Ilya E. Monosov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Humans and other animals often show a strong desire to know the uncertain rewards their future has in store, even when they cannot use this information to influence the outcome. However, it is unknown how the brain predicts opportunities to gain information and motivates this information-seeking behavior. Here we show that neurons in a network of interconnected subregions of primate anterior cingulate cortex and basal ganglia predict the moment of gaining information about uncertain rewards. Spontaneous increases in their information prediction signals are followed by gaze shifts toward objects associated with resolving uncertainty, and pharmacologically disrupting this network reduces the motivation to seek information. These findings demonstrate a cortico-basal ganglia mechanism responsible for motivating actions to resolve uncertainty by seeking knowledge about the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5168
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to Dr. Noah Ledbetter for assisting in data acquisition, Michael Traner for assisting with pharmacology experiments, and Ms. Kim Kocher for fantastic animal care and training. This work was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health under Award Numbers R01MH110594 and R01MH116937 to I.E.M., and by the McKnight Memory and Cognitive Disorders Award, the NARSAD award, and the Edward Mallinckrodt, Jr. Foundation award to IEM. Also, we wish to extend many thanks to the McDonnell Center for Systems Neuroscience for the initial seed support for this work.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, The Author(s).


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