Interactions between human orbitofrontal cortex and hippocampus support model-based inference

by Fang Wang, Geoffrey Schoenbaum, Thorsten Kahnt

Internal representations of relationships between events in the external world can be utilized to infer outcomes when direct experience is lacking. This process is thought to involve the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and hippocampus (HPC), but there is little evidence regarding the relative role of these areas and their interactions in inference. Here, we used a sensory preconditioning task and pattern-based neuroimaging to study this question. We found that associations among value-neutral cues were acquired in both regions during preconditioning but that value-related information was only represented in the OFC at the time of the probe test. Importantly, inference was accompanied by representations of associated cues and inferred outcomes in the OFC, as well as by increased HPC–OFC connectivity. These findings suggest that the OFC and HPC represent only partially overlapping information and that interactions between the two regions support model-based inference.

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