A cortical reinforcement prediction error encoded by VIP interneurons

Animals survive by following a simple dictum: win big and win often. Learning to win (e.g. finding lunch) requires a teaching signal to selectively reinforce successes. My talk will focus on a cortical circuit for reinforcement learning mediated by a type of inhibitory neuron. Previously we found that VIP interneurons preferentially inhibit other inhibitory neurons to disinhibit principal cells and respond to reward and punishment in auditory cortex. I will show that across cortical areas VIP interneurons also respond to sensory cues predicting reinforcement and their reinforcement responses are modulated by expectancy. Finally, I will speculate about the computational function of VIP interneurons in sculpting internal models within cortex that result in organism successes.


Adam Kepecs, Professor and Chair of Neuroscience Program at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, studies the neural basis of decision-making. After receiving his B.Sc. degree in computer science and mathematics at Eotvos Lorand University, Hungary, he switched to studying the brain, completing his Ph.D. at Brandeis University in theoretical neuroscience. For the past decade headed a research laboratory at CSHL where he employs sophisticated behavioral paradigms and electrophysiological, optical and molecular techniques to study the neural circuitry underlying decision-making in rodents.  

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