The hypothesis that the phasic dopamine response reports a reward prediction error has become deeply entrenched. However, dopamine neurons exhibit several notable deviations from this hypothesis. A coherent explanation for these deviations can be obtained by analyzing the dopamine response in terms of Bayesian reinforcement learning. The key idea is that prediction errors are modulated by probabilistic beliefs about the relationship between cues and outcomes, updated through Bayesian inference. This account can explain dopamine responses to inferred value in sensory preconditioning, the effects of cue preexposure (latent inhibition), and adaptive coding of prediction errors when rewards vary across orders of magnitude. We further postulate that orbitofrontal cortex transforms the stimulus representation through recurrent dynamics, such that a simple error-driven learning rule operating on the transformed representation can implement the Bayesian reinforcement learning update.

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