Distinct value signals in anterior and posterior ventromedial prefrontal cortex.
The core feature of an economic exchange is a decision to trade one good for another, based on a comparison of relative value. Economists have long recognized, however, that the value an individual ascribes to a good during decision making (i.e., their relative willingness to trade for that good) does not always map onto the reward they actually experience. Here, we show that experienced value and decision value are represented in distinct regions of ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) during the passive consumption of rewards. Participants viewed two categories of rewards-images of faces that varied in their attractiveness and monetary gains and losses-while being scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging. An independent market task, in which participants exchanged some of the money that they had earned for brief views of attractive faces, determined the relative decision value associated with each category. We found that activation of anterior VMPFC increased with increasing experienced value, but not decision value, for both reward categories. In contrast, activation of posterior VMPFC predicted each individual's relative decision value for face and monetary stimuli. These results indicate not only that experienced value and decision value are represented in distinct regions of VMPFC, but also that decision value signals are evident even in the absence of an overt choice task. We conclude that decisions are made by comparing neural representations of the value of different goods encoded in posterior VMPFC in a common, relative currency.
Smith, DV; Hayden, BY; Truong, T-K; Song, AW; Platt, ML; Huettel, SA
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