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Metacognition facilitates the exploitation of unconscious brain states

By Aurelio Cortese, Hakwan Lau, Mitsuo Kawato

Posted 13 Feb 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/548941

Can humans be trained to make strategic use of unconscious representations in their own brains? We investigated how one can derive reward-maximizing choices from latent high-dimensional information represented stochastically in neural activity. In a novel decision-making task, reinforcement learning contingencies were defined in real-time by fMRI multivoxel pattern analysis; optimal action policies thereby depended on multidimensional brain activity that took place below the threshold of consciousness. We found that subjects could solve the task, when their reinforcement learning processes were boosted by implicit metacognition to estimate the relevant brain states. With these results we identified a frontal-striatal mechanism by which the brain can untangle tasks of great dimensionality, and can do so much more flexibly than current artificial intelligence.

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