Striatal and hippocampal entropy and recognition signals in category learning: Simultaneous processes revealed by model-based fMRI

Tyler Davis, Bradley C. Love, Alison R. Preston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Category learning is a complex phenomenon that engages multiple cognitive processes, many of which occur simultaneously and unfold dynamically over time. For example, as people encounter objects in the world, they simultaneously engage processes to determine their fit with current knowledge structures, gather new information about the objects, and adjust their representations to support behavior in future encounters. Many techniques that are available to understand the neural basis of category learning assume that the multiple processes that subserve it can be neatly separated between different trials of an experiment. Model-based functional magnetic resonance imaging offers a promising tool to separate multiple, simultaneously occurring processes and bring the analysis of neuroimaging data more in line with category learning's dynamic and multifaceted nature. We use model-based imaging to explore the neural basis of recognition and entropy signals in the medial temporal lobe and striatum that are engaged while participants learn to categorize novel stimuli. Consistent with theories suggesting a role for the anterior hippocampus and ventral striatum in motivated learning in response to uncertainty, we find that activation in both regions correlates with a model-based measure of entropy. Simultaneously, separate subregions of the hippocampus and striatum exhibit activation correlated with a model-based recognition strength measure. Our results suggest that model-based analyses are exceptionally useful for extracting information about cognitive processes from neuroimaging data. Models provide a basis for identifying the multiple neural processes that contribute to behavior, and neuroimaging data can provide a powerful test bed for constraining and testing model predictions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)821-839
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2012


  • Category learning
  • Entropy
  • Medial temporal lobe
  • Model-based imaging
  • Recognition


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