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Neural Mechanisms of Hierarchical Planning in a Virtual Subway Network

Balaguer, J; Spiers, H; Hassabis, D; Summerfield, C; (2016) Neural Mechanisms of Hierarchical Planning in a Virtual Subway Network. Neuron , 90 (4) pp. 893-903. 10.1016/j.neuron.2016.03.037. Green open access

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Abstract

Planning allows actions to be structured in pursuit of a future goal. However, in natural environments, planning over multiple possible future states incurs prohibitive computational costs. To represent plans efficiently, states can be clustered hierarchically into “contexts”. For example, representing a journey through a subway network as a succession of individual states (stations) is more costly than encoding a sequence of contexts (lines) and context switches (line changes). Here, using functional brain imaging, we asked humans to perform a planning task in a virtual subway network. Behavioral analyses revealed that humans executed a hierarchically organized plan. Brain activity in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex and premotor cortex scaled with the cost of hierarchical plan representation and unique neural signals in these regions signaled contexts and context switches. These results suggest that humans represent hierarchical plans using a network of caudal prefrontal structures.

Type: Article
Title: Neural Mechanisms of Hierarchical Planning in a Virtual Subway Network
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2016.03.037
Publisher version: http://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2016.03.037
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2016 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Inc. This is an open access article under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)
Keywords: Science & Technology, Life Sciences & Biomedicine, Neurosciences, Neurosciences & Neurology, ANTERIOR CINGULATE CORTEX, PREFRONTAL CORTEX, COGNITIVE MAPS, LOBE LESIONS, LONDON TASK, HUMAN BRAIN, BEHAVIOR, MEMORY, TOWER, HIPPOCAMPUS
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Experimental Psychology
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1524836
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