Decision value computation in DLPFC and VMPFC adjusts to the available decision time.
ABSTRACT It is increasingly clear that simple decisions are made by computing decision values for the options under consideration, and then comparing these values to make a choice. Computational models of this process suggest that it involves the accumulation of information over time, but little is known about the temporal course of valuation in the brain. To examine this, we manipulated the available decision time and observed the consequences in the brain and behavioral correlates of choice. Participants were scanned with functional magnetic resonance imaging while they chose to eat or not eat basic food items, in two conditions differing in the amount of time provided for choice. After identifying valuation-related regions with unbiased whole-brain general linear models, we analyzed two regions of interest: ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Finite impulse response models of the upsampled estimated neural activity from those regions allowed us to examine the onset, duration and termination of decision value signals, and to compare across regions. We found evidence for the immediate onset of value computation in both regions, but an extended duration with longer decision time. However, this was not accompanied by behavioral changes in either the accuracy or determinants of choice. Finally, there was modest evidence that DLPFC computation correlated with, but lagged behind, VMPFC computation, suggesting the sharing of information across these regions. These findings have important implications for models of decision value computation and choice.
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ABSTRACT: Signals representing the value assigned to stimuli at the time of choice have been repeatedly observed in ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). Yet it remains unknown how these value representations are computed from sensory and memory representations in more posterior brain regions. We used electroencephalography (EEG) while subjects evaluated appetitive and aversive food items to study how event-related responses modulated by stimulus value evolve over time. We found that value-related activity shifted from posterior to anterior, and from parietal to central to frontal sensors, across three major time windows after stimulus onset: 150-250 ms, 400-550 ms, and 700-800 ms. Exploratory localization of the EEG signal revealed a shifting network of activity moving from sensory and memory structures to areas associated with value coding, with stimulus value activity localized to vmPFC only from 400 ms onwards. Consistent with these results, functional connectivity analyses also showed a causal flow of information from temporal cortex to vmPFC. Thus, although value signals are present as early as 150 ms after stimulus onset, the value signals in vmPFC appear relatively late in the choice process, and seem to reflect the integration of incoming information from sensory and memory related regions.PLoS ONE 01/2011; 6(6):e21074. · 4.09 Impact Factor