Romain Ligneul, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Netherlands
The neural valuation of knowledge: from curiosity relief to epistemic surprise
Abstract: Highly variable across contexts and individuals, epistemic curiosity (EC) motivates a myriad of exploratory behaviors, sometimes extending to the quest of knowledge for its own sake. Here, we hypothesized that the relief of ignorance and the surprise associated with the delivery of new information contribute differently to the reinforcement of EC. During two-step trivia quiz performed under fMRI, curiosity relief elicited dose-dependent BOLD responses in the striatum, while the vmPFC and other structures encoded both prior knowledge and surprise related to delivered answers. Moreover, surprise mediated curiosity-driven memory benefits and appeared to govern the fluctuations of EC levels over time. Taken together, our study demonstrates that knowledge delivery recruits the reward system and it reveal the fundamental roles played by prior knowledge and surprise for epistemic curiosity.