In humans and other animals, the vigor with which a reward is pursued depends on its desirability, that is, on the reward's predicted value. Predicted value is generally context-dependent, varying according to the value of rewards obtained in the recent and distant past. Signals related to reward prediction and valuation are believed to be encoded in a circuit centered around midbrain dopamine neurons and their targets in the prefrontal cortex and basal ganglia. Notably absent from this hypothesized reward pathway are dopaminergic targets in the medial temporal lobe. Here we show that a key part of the medial temporal lobe memory system previously reported to be important for sensory mnemonic and perceptual processing, the rhinal cortex (Rh), is required for using memories of previous reward values to predict the value of forthcoming rewards. We tested monkeys with bilateral Rh lesions on a task in which reward size varied across blocks of uncued trials. In this experiment, the only cues for predicting current reward value are the sizes of rewards delivered in previous blocks. Unexpectedly, monkeys with Rh ablations, but not intact controls, were insensitive to differences in predicted reward, responding as if they expected all rewards to be of equal magnitude. Thus, it appears that Rh is critical for using memory of previous rewards to predict the value of forthcoming rewards. These results are in agreement with accumulating evidence that Rh is critical for establishing the relationships between temporally interleaved events, which is a key element of episodic memory.
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