The mesolimbic pathways appear to be involved in signaling both factual and counterfactual reward prediction errors (regret and relief). In which ways are these signals believed to affect neurons in the cortex? It seems to me there are several possibilities, for example:

  • The mesolimbic pathways "know" which cortical areas are responsible for recent actions and directly send signals to them to change,
  • or the cortical areas themselves "know" when they are responsible for a prediction error, and they know which neurons to blame and how to change them. All the mesolimbic pathways do is just encouraging the cortex to repeat recent activations in a counterfactual manner a couple of times so that the error becomes smaller each time. (This is how relief and regret feel to me, if I'm not fooled by some preconceptions.)
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    $\begingroup$ Is In which ways are these signals believed to affect neurons in the cortex? the basis of your question? If yes, it is too broad. The following two bullet points I don't understand. It may be me, but cortical areas do not know anything. Cortical areas connected with each other, yes. But they don't know of each other's. We know they are there, and connected through imaging and other techniques. $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    Jun 8 '16 at 18:40
  • $\begingroup$ It was no accident that I wrote "know" in quotes. Somehow the synapses that are responsible for the prediction error must change, so either the neurons or local structures themselves store that information, or the mesolimbic pathways specifically target these regions, but these are just two possibilities I have provided as an intuition pump for the kind of answers I am seeking. Basically, I am wondering what kind of neuronal mechanisms have so far been proposed for cortical learning that involves the mesolimbic pathsways. $\endgroup$
    – Lenar Hoyt
    Jun 9 '16 at 9:54

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