Decoding subjective decisions from orbitofrontal cortex.
ABSTRACT: When making a subjective choice, the brain must compute a value for each option and compare those values to make a decision. The orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) is critically involved in this process, but the neural mechanisms remain obscure, in part due to limitations in our ability to measure and control the internal deliberations that can alter the dynamics of the decision process. Here we tracked these dynamics by recovering temporally precise neural states from multidimensional data in OFC. During individual choices, OFC alternated between states associated with the value of two available options, with dynamics that predicted whether a subject would decide quickly or vacillate between the two alternatives. Ensembles of value-encoding neurons contributed to these states, with individual neurons shifting activity patterns as the network evaluated each option. Thus, the mechanism of subjective decision-making involves the dynamic activation of OFC states associated with each choice alternative.
Project description:During value-based decision making, we often evaluate the value of each option sequentially by shifting our attention, even when the options are presented simultaneously. The orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) has been suggested to encode value during value-based decision making. Yet it is not known how its activity is modulated by attention shifts. We investigated this question by employing a passive viewing task that allowed us to disentangle effects of attention, value, choice and eye movement. We found that the attention modulated OFC activity through a winner-take-all mechanism. When we attracted the monkeys' attention covertly, the OFC neuronal activity reflected the reward value of the newly attended cue. The shift of attention could be explained by a normalization model. Our results strongly argue for the hypothesis that the OFC neuronal activity represents the value of the attended item. They provide important insights toward understanding the OFC's role in value-based decision making.
Project description:The notion of subjective value is central to choice theories in ecology, economics, and psychology, serving as an integrated decision variable by which options are compared. Subjective value is often assumed to be an absolute quantity, determined in a static manner by the properties of an individual option. Recent neurobiological studies, however, have shown that neural value coding dynamically adapts to the statistics of the recent reward environment, introducing an intrinsic temporal context dependence into the neural representation of value. Whether valuation exhibits this kind of dynamic adaptation at the behavioral level is unknown. Here, we show that the valuation process in human subjects adapts to the history of previous values, with current valuations varying inversely with the average value of recently observed items. The dynamics of this adaptive valuation are captured by divisive normalization, linking these temporal context effects to spatial context effects in decision making as well as spatial and temporal context effects in perception. These findings suggest that adaptation is a universal feature of neural information processing and offer a unifying explanation for contextual phenomena in fields ranging from visual psychophysics to economic choice.
Project description:Most contemporary models of value-based decisions are built on value estimates that are typically self-reported by the decision maker. Such models have been successful in accounting for choice accuracy and response time, and more recently choice confidence. The fundamental driver of such models is choice difficulty, which is almost always defined as the absolute value difference between the subjective value ratings of the options in a choice set. Yet a decision maker is not necessarily able to provide a value estimate with the same degree of certainty for each option that he encounters. We propose that choice difficulty is determined not only by absolute value distance of choice options, but also by their value certainty. In this study, we first demonstrate the reliability of the concept of an option-specific value certainty using three different experimental measures. We then demonstrate the influence that value certainty has on choice, including accuracy (consistency), choice confidence, response time, and choice-induced preference change (i.e., the degree to which value estimates change from pre- to post-choice evaluation). We conclude with a suggestion of how popular contemporary models of choice (e.g., race model, drift-diffusion model) could be improved by including option-specific value certainty as one of their inputs.
Project description:Damage to prefrontal cortex (PFC) impairs decision-making, but the underlying value computations that might cause such impairments remain unclear. Here we report that value computations are doubly dissociable among PFC neurons. Although many PFC neurons encoded chosen value, they used opponent encoding schemes such that averaging the neuronal population extinguished value coding. However, a special population of neurons in anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), but not in orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), multiplexed chosen value across decision parameters using a unified encoding scheme and encoded reward prediction errors. In contrast, neurons in OFC, but not ACC, encoded chosen value relative to the recent history of choice values. Together, these results suggest complementary valuation processes across PFC areas: OFC neurons dynamically evaluate current choices relative to recent choice values, whereas ACC neurons encode choice predictions and prediction errors using a common valuation currency reflecting the integration of multiple decision parameters.
Project description:Choice reflects the values of available alternatives; more valuable options are chosen more often than less valuable ones. Here we studied whether neuronal responses in orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) reflect the value difference between options, and whether there is a causal link between OFC neuronal activity and choice. Using a decision-making task where two visual stimuli were presented sequentially, each signifying a value, we showed that when the second stimulus appears many neurons encode the value difference between alternatives. Later when the choice occurs, that difference signal disappears and a signal indicating the chosen value emerges. Pharmacological inactivation of OFC neurons coding for choice-related values increases the monkey's latency to make a choice and the likelihood that it will choose the less valuable alternative, when the value difference is small. Thus, OFC neurons code for value information that could be used to directly influence choice.
Project description:We investigated how different subregions of rodent prefrontal cortex contribute to value-based decision making, by comparing neural signals related to animal's choice, its outcome, and action value in orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) of rats performing a dynamic two-armed bandit task. Neural signals for upcoming action selection arose in the mPFC, including the anterior cingulate cortex, only immediately before the behavioral manifestation of animal's choice, suggesting that rodent prefrontal cortex is not involved in advanced action planning. Both OFC and mPFC conveyed signals related to the animal's past choices and their outcomes over multiple trials, but neural signals for chosen value and reward prediction error were more prevalent in the OFC. Our results suggest that rodent OFC and mPFC serve distinct roles in value-based decision making and that the OFC plays a prominent role in updating the values of outcomes expected from chosen actions.
Project description:Orbitofrontal cortical (OFC) and hippocampal (HPC) lesions in primates and rodents have been associated with impulsive behaviour. We showed previously that OFC- or HPC-lesioned rats chose the immediate low-reward (LR) option in preference to the delayed high-reward (HR) option, where LR and HR were associated with different spatial responses in a uniform grey T-maze. We now report that on a novel nonspatial T-maze task in which the HR and LR options are associated with patterned goal arms (black-and-white stripes vs. gray), OFC-lesioned rats did not show impulsive behaviour, choosing the delayed HR option, and were indistinguishable from controls. In contrast, HPC-lesioned rats exhibited impulsive choice in the nonspatial decision-making task, although they chose the HR option on the majority of trials when there was a 10-s delay associated with both goal arms. The previously reported impairment in OFC-lesioned rats on the spatial version of the intertemporal choice task is unlikely to reflect a general problem with spatial learning, because OFC lesions were without effect on acquisition of the standard reference memory water-maze task and spatial working memory performance (nonmatching-to-place) on the T-maze. The differential effect of OFC lesions on the two versions of the intertemporal choice task may be explained instead in terms of the putative role of OFC in using associative information to represent expected outcomes and generate predictions. The impulsivity in HPC-lesioned rats may reflect impaired temporal information processing, and emphasizes a role for the hippocampus beyond the spatial domain.
Project description:Economic choice is the behaviour observed when individuals select one among many available options. There is no intrinsically 'correct' answer: economic choice depends on subjective preferences. This behaviour is traditionally the object of economic analysis and is also of primary interest in psychology. However, the underlying mental processes and neuronal mechanisms are not well understood. Theories of human and animal choice have a cornerstone in the concept of 'value'. Consider, for example, a monkey offered one raisin versus one piece of apple: behavioural evidence suggests that the animal chooses by assigning values to the two options. But where and how values are represented in the brain is unclear. Here we show that, during economic choice, neurons in the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) encode the value of offered and chosen goods. Notably, OFC neurons encode value independently of visuospatial factors and motor responses. If a monkey chooses between A and B, neurons in the OFC encode the value of the two goods independently of whether A is presented on the right and B on the left, or vice versa. This trait distinguishes the OFC from other brain areas in which value modulates activity related to sensory or motor processes. Our results have broad implications for possible psychological models, suggesting that economic choice is essentially choice between goods rather than choice between actions. In this framework, neurons in the OFC seem to be a good candidate network for value assignment underlying economic choice.
Project description:Orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) is widely held to be critical for flexibility in decision-making when established choice values change. OFC's role in such decision making was investigated in macaques performing dynamically changing three-armed bandit tasks. After selective OFC lesions, animals were impaired at discovering the identity of the highest value stimulus following reversals. However, this was not caused either by diminished behavioral flexibility or by insensitivity to reinforcement changes, but instead by paradoxical increases in switching between all stimuli. This pattern of choice behavior could be explained by a causal role for OFC in appropriate contingent learning, the process by which causal responsibility for a particular reward is assigned to a particular choice. After OFC lesions, animals' choice behavior no longer reflected the history of precise conjoint relationships between particular choices and particular rewards. Nonetheless, OFC-lesioned animals could still approximate choice-outcome associations using a recency-weighted history of choices and rewards.
Project description:The valuation of food is a fundamental component of our decision-making. Yet little is known about how value signals for food and other rewards are constructed by the brain. Using a food-based decision task in human participants, we found that subjective values can be predicted from beliefs about constituent nutritive attributes of food: protein, fat, carbohydrates and vitamin content. Multivariate analyses of functional MRI data demonstrated that, while food value is represented in patterns of neural activity in both medial and lateral parts of the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), only the lateral OFC represents the elemental nutritive attributes. Effective connectivity analyses further indicate that information about the nutritive attributes represented in the lateral OFC is integrated within the medial OFC to compute an overall value. These findings provide a mechanistic account for the construction of food value from its constituent nutrients.