Knowledge acquisition is governed by striatal prediction errors

Alex Pine, Noa Sadeh, Aya Ben-Yakov, Yadin Dudai, Avi Mendelsohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Discrepancies between expectations and outcomes, or prediction errors, are central to trial-and-error learning based on reward and punishment, and their neurobiological basis is well characterized. It is not known, however, whether the same principles apply to declarative memory systems, such as those supporting semantic learning. Here, we demonstrate with fMRI that the brain parametrically encodes the degree to which new factual information violates expectations based on prior knowledge and beliefs - most prominently in the ventral striatum, and cortical regions supporting declarative memory encoding. These semantic prediction errors determine the extent to which information is incorporated into long-term memory, such that learning is superior when incoming information counters strong incorrect recollections, thereby eliciting large prediction errors. Paradoxically, by the same account, strong accurate recollections are more amenable to being supplanted by misinformation, engendering false memories. These findings highlight a commonality in brain mechanisms and computational rules that govern declarative and nondeclarative learning, traditionally deemed dissociable.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1673
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Genela Morris for comments on the manuscript. A.P. and Y.D. were supported by a Weizmann UK “making connections” grant. Y.D. was supported by the I-CORE Program of the Planning and Budgeting Committee and The Israel Science Foundation (grant no. 51/11). A.M. was supported by an Israel Science Foundation grant (no. 603/ 15).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Author(s).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry (all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (all)
  • Physics and Astronomy (all)


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