Infrequent, task-irrelevant monetary gains and losses engage dorsolateral and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex.
Decision making is commonly conceived to reflect the interplay of mutually antagonistic systems: executive processes must inhibit affective information to make adaptive choices. Consistent with this interpretation, prior studies have shown that the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) is activated by executive processing and deactivated during emotional processing, with the reverse pattern found within the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (vlPFC). To evaluate whether this pattern generalizes to other affective stimuli--here, monetary rewards--we modified the emotional oddball task to use behaviorally irrelevant reward stimuli, while matching analysis methods and task parameters to those of previous research. Contrary to the double-dissociation model advanced for emotional stimuli, we found that monetary stimuli produced activations within both the dlPFC and the vlPFC. This suggests that monetary stimuli are treated like affective stimuli by vlPFC but like task-relevant target stimuli by dlPFC. Our results suggest differential functional roles in affective and executive processing for these brain regions: the dlPFC supports contingency processing, while the vlPFC evaluates affective or conceptual information.
Mullette-Gillman, OA; Detwiler, JM; Winecoff, A; Dobbins, I; Huettel, SA
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