Learning about Expectation Violation from Prediction Error Paradigms - A Meta-Analysis on Brain Processes Following a Prediction Error

Front Psychol. 2017 Jul 28;8:1253. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01253. eCollection 2017.


Modifying patients' expectations by exposing them to expectation violation situations (thus maximizing the difference between the expected and the actual situational outcome) is proposed to be a crucial mechanism for therapeutic success for a variety of different mental disorders. However, clinical observations suggest that patients often maintain their expectations regardless of experiences contradicting their expectations. It remains unclear which information processing mechanisms lead to modification or persistence of patients' expectations. Insight in the processing could be provided by Neuroimaging studies investigating prediction error (PE, i.e., neuronal reactions to non-expected stimuli). Two methods are often used to investigate the PE: (1) paradigms, in which participants passively observe PEs ("passive" paradigms) and (2) paradigms, which encourage a behavioral adaptation following a PE ("active" paradigms). These paradigms are similar to the methods used to induce expectation violations in clinical settings: (1) the confrontation with an expectation violation situation and (2) an enhanced confrontation in which the patient actively challenges his expectation. We used this similarity to gain insight in the different neuronal processing of the two PE paradigms. We performed a meta-analysis contrasting neuronal activity of PE paradigms encouraging a behavioral adaptation following a PE and paradigms enforcing passiveness following a PE. We found more neuronal activity in the striatum, the insula and the fusiform gyrus in studies encouraging behavioral adaptation following a PE. Due to the involvement of reward assessment and avoidance learning associated with the striatum and the insula we propose that the deliberate execution of action alternatives following a PE is associated with the integration of new information into previously existing expectations, therefore leading to an expectation change. While further research is needed to directly assess expectations of participants, this study provides new insights into the information processing mechanisms following an expectation violation.

Keywords: expectation violation; fMRI; insula; meta-analysis; prediction error; striatum.