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Neural mechanisms of economic commitment in the human medial prefrontal cortex

  1. Konstantinos Tsetsos  Is a corresponding author
  2. Valentin Wyart
  3. S Paul Shorkey
  4. Christopher Summerfield
  1. University of Oxford, United Kingdom
  2. Ecole Normale Supérieure, France
Research Article
  • Cited 6
  • Views 1,414
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Cite this article as: eLife 2014;3:e03701 doi: 10.7554/eLife.03701


Neurobiologists have studied decisions by offering successive, independent choices between goods or gambles. However, choices often have lasting consequences, as when investing in a house or choosing a partner. Here, humans decided whether to commit (by acceptance or rejection) to prospects that provided sustained financial return. BOLD signals in the rostral medial prefrontal cortex (MFC) encoded stimulus value only when acceptance or rejection was deferred into the future, suggesting a role in integrating value signals over time. By contrast, the dorsal MFC encoded stimulus value only when participants rejected (or deferred accepting) a prospect. Dorsal MFC BOLD signals reflected two decision biases - to defer commitments to later, and to weight potential losses more heavily than gains - that (paradoxically) maximised reward in this task. These findings offer fresh insights into the pressures that shape economic decisions, and the computation of value in the medial prefrontal cortex.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Konstantinos Tsetsos

    University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  2. Valentin Wyart

    Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, France
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. S Paul Shorkey

    University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  4. Christopher Summerfield

    University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.


Human subjects: All participants gave informed consent to participate in the experiment, agreeing also that we would store anonymously their data, analyse them, and publish the corresponding results in peer-reviewed journals. Ethical approval was provided by the local committee in Oxford: NRES Committee South Central - Oxford A, identifier 09/H0604/11. All procedures accorded with the Declaration of Helsinki.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Eve Marder, Brandeis University, United States

Publication history

  1. Received: June 16, 2014
  2. Accepted: October 16, 2014
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: October 21, 2014 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: November 11, 2014 (version 2)


© 2014, Tsetsos et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.


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