How Outcome Uncertainty Mediates Attention, Learning, and Decision-Making

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43 Scopus citations


Animals and humans evolved sophisticated nervous systems that endowed them with the ability to form internal-models or beliefs and make predictions about the future to survive and flourish in a world in which future outcomes are often uncertain. Crucial to this capacity is the ability to adjust behavioral and learning policies in response to the level of uncertainty. Until recently, the neuronal mechanisms that could underlie such uncertainty-guided control have been largely unknown. In this review, I discuss newly discovered neuronal circuits in primates that represent uncertainty about future rewards and propose how they guide information-seeking, attention, decision-making, and learning to help us survive in an uncertain world. Lastly, I discuss the possible relevance of these findings to learning in artificial systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)795-809
Number of pages15
JournalTrends in Neurosciences
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2020


  • artificial intelligence
  • basal-forebrain
  • basal-ganglia
  • cingulate
  • information-seeking


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