Neuroscience of decision making: from goal-directed actions to habits

octobre 2016 Directeur(s) de thèse : Nicolas Rougier Résumé de thèse

Action-outcome and stimulus-response processes are two important components of behavior. The former evaluates the benefit of an action in order to choose the best action among those available (action selection) while the latter is responsible for automatic behavior, eliciting a response as soon as a known stimulus is present. Such habits are generally associated (and mostly opposed) to goal-directed actions that require a deliberative process to evaluate the best option to take in order to reach a given goal. Using a computational model, we investigated the classic hypothesis of habits formation and expression in the basal ganglia and proposed a new hypothesis concerning the respective role for both the basal ganglia and the cortex. Inspired by previous theoretical and experimental works (Leblois et al., 2006; Guthrie et al., 2013), we designed a computational model of the basal ganglia-thalamus-cortex that uses segregated loops (motor, cognitive and associative) and makes the hypothesis that basal ganglia are only necessary for the acquisition of habits while the expression of such habits can be mediated through the cortex only. Furthermore, this model predicts the existence of covert learning within the basal ganglia ganglia when their output is inhibited. Using a two-armed bandit task, this hypothesis has been experimentally tested and confirmed in monkey. Finally, this work suggests to revise the classical idea that automatism is a subcortical feature.