Short-term reward experience biases inference despite dissociable neural correlates

Adrian G. Fischer, Sacha Bourgeois-Gironde, Markus Ullsperger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Optimal decision-making employs short-term rewards and abstract long-term information based on which of these is deemed relevant. Employing short-vs. long-term information is associated with different learning mechanisms, yet neural evidence showing that these two are dissociable is lacking. Here we demonstrate that long-term, inference-based beliefs are biased by short-term reward experiences and that dissociable brain regions facilitate both types of learning. Long-term inferences are associated with dorsal striatal and frontopolar cortex activity, while short-term rewards engage the ventral striatum. Stronger concurrent representation of reward signals by mediodorsal striatum and frontopolar cortex correlates with less biased, more optimal individual long-term inference. Moreover, dynamic modulation of activity in a cortical cognitive control network and the medial striatum is associated with trial-by-trial control of biases in belief updating. This suggests that counteracting the processing of optimally to-be-ignored short-term rewards and cortical suppression of associated reward-signals, determines long-term learning success and failure.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1690
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Author(s).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General
  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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