It is generally believed that during economic decisions, striatal neurons represent the values associated with different actions. This hypothesis is based on studies, in which the activity of striatal neurons was measured while the subject was learning to prefer the more rewarding action. Here we show that these publications are subject to at least one of two critical confounds. First, we show that even weak temporal correlations in the neuronal data may result in an erroneous identification of action-value representations. Second, we show that experiments and analyses designed to dissociate action-value representation from the representation of other decision variables cannot do so. We suggest solutions to identifying action-value representation that are not subject to these confounds. Applying one solution to previously identified action-value neurons in the basal ganglia we fail to detect action-value representations. We conclude that the claim that striatal neurons encode action-values must await new experiments and analyses.
Year of publication
eLife 7: e34248.