Knowing how much you don't know: a neural organization of uncertainty estimates

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2012 Jul 11;13(8):572-86. doi: 10.1038/nrn3289.


How we estimate uncertainty is important in decision neuroscience and has wide-ranging implications in basic and clinical neuroscience, from computational models of optimality to ideas on psychopathological disorders including anxiety, depression and schizophrenia. Empirical research in neuroscience, which has been based on divergent theoretical assumptions, has focused on the fundamental question of how uncertainty is encoded in the brain and how it influences behaviour. Here, we integrate several theoretical concepts about uncertainty into a decision-making framework. We conclude that the currently available evidence indicates that distinct neural encoding (including summary statistic-type representations) of uncertainty occurs in distinct neural systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Uncertainty*