Putamen Activation Represents an Intrinsic Positive Prediction Error Signal for Visual Search in Repeated Configurations

Susanne Sommer1, Stefan Pollmann1, 2, *
1 Department of Experimental Psychology, Otto-von-Guericke University, 39106 Magdeburg, Germany
2 Center for Behavioral Brain Sciences, 39106 Magdeburg, Germany

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Creative Commons License
© Sommer and Pollmann; Licensee Bentham Open

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 4.0 International Public License (CC BY-NC 4.0) (, which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Otto-von-Guericke-Universität, Institut für Psychologie II, Postfach 4120, 39106 Magdeburg, Germany; Tel: +49 (0)391/67 18474; Fax: +49 (0)391/67 11401; E-mail:


We investigated fMRI responses to visual search targets appearing at locations that were predicted by the search context. Based on previous work in visual category learning we expected an intrinsic reward prediction error signal in the putamen whenever the target appeared at a location that was predicted with some degree of uncertainty. Comparing target appearance at locations predicted with 50% probability to either locations predicted with 100% probability or unpredicted locations, increased activation was observed in left posterior putamen and adjacent left posterior insula. Thus, our hypothesis of an intrinsic prediction error-like signal was confirmed. This extends the observation of intrinsic prediction error-like signals, driven by intrinsic rather than extrinsic reward, to memory-driven visual search.

Keywords: Attention, FMRI, Reward, Striatum, Visual.