Neural circuitry of information seeking

Curr Opin Behav Sci. 2020 Oct;35:62-70. doi: 10.1016/j.cobeha.2020.07.006. Epub 2020 Aug 25.


Humans and animals navigate uncertain environments by seeking information about the future. Remarkably, we often seek information even when it has no instrumental value for aiding our decisions - as if the information is a source of value in its own right. In recent years, there has been a flourishing of research into these non-instrumental information preferences and their implementation in the brain. Individuals value information about uncertain future rewards, and do so for multiple reasons, including valuing resolution of uncertainty and overweighting desirable information. The brain motivates this information seeking by tapping into some of the same circuitry as primary rewards like food and water. However, it also employs cortex and basal ganglia circuitry that predicts and values information as distinct from primary reward. Uncovering how these circuits cooperate will be fundamental to understanding information seeking and motivated behavior as a whole, in our increasingly complex and information-rich world.

Keywords: Dopamine; cingulate; habenula; information; information seeking; observing response; orbitofrontal; pallidum; striatum; temporal resolution of uncertainty; uncertainty.