How prediction errors shape perception, attention, and motivation

Front Psychol. 2012 Dec 11:3:548. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00548. eCollection 2012.


Prediction errors (PE) are a central notion in theoretical models of reinforcement learning, perceptual inference, decision-making and cognition, and prediction error signals have been reported across a wide range of brain regions and experimental paradigms. Here, we will make an attempt to see the forest for the trees and consider the commonalities and differences of reported PE signals in light of recent suggestions that the computation of PE forms a fundamental mode of brain function. We discuss where different types of PE are encoded, how they are generated, and the different functional roles they fulfill. We suggest that while encoding of PE is a common computation across brain regions, the content and function of these error signals can be very different and are determined by the afferent and efferent connections within the neural circuitry in which they arise.

Keywords: decision-making; expectation; learning; perceptual inference; prediction; prediction error; predictive coding.