Prof. Yonatan Loewenstein

Striatal action-value neurons reconsidered

Elber-Dorozko, Lotem, and Loewenstein Yonatan.  Submitted.  


It is generally believed that during economic decisions, striatal neurons represent the valuesassociated with different actions. This hypothesis is based on a large number of electrophysiological studies, in which the neural activity of striatal neurons was measured while the subject was learning to prefer the more rewarding action. Here we present an alternative interpretation of the electrophysiological findings. We show that the standard statistical methods that were used to identify action-value neurons in the striatum erroneously detect the same action-value representations in unrelated neuronal recordings. This is due to temporal correlations in the neuronal data. We propose an alternative statistical method for identifying action-value representations that is not subject to this caveat. We apply it to previously identified action-value neurons in the basal ganglia and fail to detect action-value representations. In conclusion, we argue that there is no conclusive evidence for the generally accepted hypothesis that striatal neurons encode action-values.

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