Entorhinal and ventromedial prefrontal cortices abstract and generalise the structure of reinforcement learning problems


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Knowledge of the structure of a problem, such as relationships between stimuli, enables rapid learning and flexible inference. Humans and other animals can abstract this structural knowledge and generalise it to solve new problems. For example, in spatial reasoning, shortest-path inferences are immediate in new environments. Spatial structural transfer is mediated by grid cells in entorhinal and (in humans) medial prefrontal cortices, which maintain their structure across different environments. Here, using fMRI, we show that entorhinal and ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) representations perform a much broader role in generalising the structure of problems. We introduce a task-remapping paradigm, where subjects solve multiple reinforcement learning (RL) problems differing in structural or sensory properties. We show that, as with space, entorhinal representations are preserved across different RL problems only if task structure is preserved. In vmPFC, representations of standard RL signals such as prediction error also vary as a function of task structure. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.
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