Characterising reward outcome signals in sensory cortex

Thomas H B FitzGerald, Karl J Friston, Raymond J Dolan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Reward outcome signalling in the sensory cortex is held as important for linking stimuli to their consequences and for modulating perceptual learning in response to incentives. Evidence for reward outcome signalling has been found in sensory regions including the visual, auditory and somatosensory cortices across a range of different paradigms, but it is unknown whether the population of neurons signalling rewarding outcomes are the same as those processing predictive stimuli. We addressed this question using a multivariate analysis of high-resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), in a task where subjects were engaged in instrumental learning with visual predictive cues and auditory signalled reward feedback. We found evidence that outcome signals in sensory regions localise to the same areas involved in stimulus processing. These outcome signals are non-specific and we show that the neuronal populations involved in stimulus representation are not their exclusive target, in keeping with theoretical models of value learning. Thus, our results reveal one likely mechanism through which rewarding outcomes are linked to predictive sensory stimuli, a link that may be key for both reward and perceptual learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-34
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


  • Action Potentials
  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping
  • Connectome
  • Feedback, Sensory
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Nerve Net
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Reward
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Somatosensory Cortex
  • Visual Cortex
  • Young Adult

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