Brain dynamics for confidence-weighted learning
Learning in a changing and uncertain environment is a difficult problem. A popular solution is to predict future observations and then use surprising outcomes to update those predictions. However, humans also have a sense of confidence that characterizes the precision of their predictions. Bayesian models use this confidence to regulate learning: for a given surprise, the update is smaller when confidence is higher. We explored the human brain dynamics sub-tending such a confidence-weighting using magneto-encephalography. During our volatile probability learning task, subjects' confidence reports conformed with Bayesian inference. Several stimulus-evoked brain responses reflected surprise, and some of them were indeed further modulated by confidence. Confidence about predictions also modulated pupil-linked arousal and beta-range (15-30 Hz) oscillations, which in turn modulated specific stimulus-evoked surprise responses. Our results suggest thus that confidence about predictions modulates intrinsic properties of the brain state to amplify or dampen surprise responses evoked by discrepant observations.