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.
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.
- Eve Marder, Brandeis University, United States
© 2014, Tsetsos et al.
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