1. Neuroscience
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Neuronal activity in dorsal anterior cingulate cortex during economic choices under variable action costs

  1. Xinying Cai  Is a corresponding author
  2. Camillo Padoa-Schioppa
  1. NYU Shanghai, China
  2. Washington University in St Louis, United States
Research Article
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Cite this article as: eLife 2021;10:e71695 doi: 10.7554/eLife.71695


The role of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (ACCd) in decision making has often been discussed but remains somewhat unclear. On the one hand, numerous studies implicated this area in decisions driven by effort or action cost. On the other hand, work on economic choices between goods (under fixed action costs) found that neurons in ACCd encoded only post-decision variables. To advance our understanding of the role played by this area in decision making, we trained monkeys to choose between different goods (juice types) offered in variable amounts and with different action costs. Importantly, the task design dissociated computation of the action cost from planning of any particular action. Neurons in ACCd encoded the chosen value and the binary choice outcome in several reference frames (chosen juice, chosen cost, chosen action). Thus, this area provided a rich representation of post-decision variables. In contrast to the OFC, neurons in ACCd did not represent pre-decision variables such as individual offer values in any reference frame. Hence, ongoing decisions are unlikely guided by ACCd. Conversely, neuronal activity in this area might inform subsequent actions.

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All data generated or analysed during this study are included in the manuscript and supporting files.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Xinying Cai

    NYU Shanghai, Shanghai, China
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0003-4997-9793
  2. Camillo Padoa-Schioppa

    Department of Neuroscience, Washington University in St Louis, Saint Louis, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-7519-8790


National Institute of Mental Health (R01-DA032758)

  • Camillo Padoa-Schioppa

National Natural Science Foundation of China (grants 31571102 and 91632106)

  • Xinying Cai

Ministry of Education Program of Introducing Talents of Discipline to Universities (Base B16018)

  • Xinying Cai

NYU-ECNU Institute of Brain and Cognitive Science at NYU Shanghai (Joint Research Institute Seed Grants for Research Collaboration)

  • Xinying Cai

Science and Technology Commission of Shanghai Municipality (grants 15JC1400104 and 16JC1400101)

  • Xinying Cai

the Shanghai Municipal Science and Technology Major Project (2018SHZDZX05)

  • Xinying Cai

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.


Animal experimentation: All experimental procedures conformed to the NIH Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals and were approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) at Washington University.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Erin L Rich, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, United States

Publication history

  1. Received: June 30, 2021
  2. Accepted: October 12, 2021
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: October 13, 2021 (version 1)


© 2021, Cai & Padoa-Schioppa

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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