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Publication Detail
"Virus and Epidemic": Causal Knowledge Activates Prediction Error Circuitry.
Abstract
Knowledge about cause and effect relationships (e.g., virus-epidemic) is essential for predicting changes in the environment, and anticipating the consequences of events and one’s own actions. While there is evidence that predictions and learning from prediction errors are instrumental in acquiring causal knowledge, it is unclear whether prediction error circuitry remains involved in the mental representation and evaluation of causal knowledge already stored in semantic memory. In a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, participants assessed whether pairs of words were causally related (e.g., virus-epidemic) or non-causally associated (e.g., emerald-ring). In a second fMRI study, a task cue prompted the participants to evaluate either the causal or the non-causal associative relationship between pairs of words. Causally related pairs elicited higher activity in orbitofrontal cortex, amygdala, striatum, and substantia nigra/ventral tegmental area (SN/VTA) than non-causally associated pairs. These regions were also more activated by the causal than by the associative task cue. This network overlaps with the mesolimbic and mesocortical dopaminergic network known to code prediction errors suggesting that prediction error processing might participate in assessments of causality even under conditions when it is not explicitly required to make predictions.
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Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
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