Hot Off the Press – October 2023
Predictive cues typically come in bunches and combining their predictions may improve behavior. Yet, we know almost nothing about how people process reward predictions from multiple cues as well as the brain mechanisms that are involved. Our manuscript describes two experiments that used a novel behavioral task with food odors as biologically meaningful outcomes. The first experiment shows that people leverage predictions from multiple cues to improve behavioral responding, and that this is accompanied by stronger pattern-based fMRI representations of outcome expectations in the lateral orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). Moreover, we show that predictions are combined at the level of reward-specific expectations, rather than some general property like value. The second experiment uses network-targeted TMS to evaluate the causal contribution of the lateral OFC to this process. We show that perturbing activity in the lateral OFC disrupts subjects’ ability to utilize multiple cues to improve behavior, without altering responding to single cues.