Strategic brain routes for learning and plasticity
When immersed in a new environment we are challenged to make sense of initially incomprehensible event streams. Yet, quite rapidly, the brain is able to find meaningful structures, helping us to predict and prepare for future actions. We combine behavioural and ultra high-field brain imaging measurements with computational modeling, to understand the dynamics of human learning. We show that individuals adapt to changes in the environment’s statistics and extract predictive structures. Importantly, extracting complex structures relates to individual decision strategy: faster learning relates to selecting the most probable outcomes and is implemented by interactions in fronto-striatal circuits, while learning the exact stimulus statistics is implemented by visual cortico-striatal circuits. Our findings provide evidence for alternate brain routes to learning of behaviorally-relevant statistics that facilitate our ability to predict future events in variable environments.