Deciding how to decide: Ventromedial frontal lobe damage affects information acquisition in multi-attribute decision making

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Brain (Impact Factor: 9.2). 05/2006; 129(Pt 4):944-52. DOI: 10.1093/brain/awl017
Source: PubMed


Ventromedial frontal lobe (VMF) damage is associated with impaired decision making. Recent efforts to understand the functions of this brain region have focused on its role in tracking reward, punishment and risk. However, decision making is complex, and frontal lobe damage might be expected to affect it at other levels. This study used process-tracing techniques to explore the effect of VMF damage on multi-attribute decision making under certainty. Thirteen subjects with focal VMF damage were compared with 11 subjects with frontal damage that spared the VMF and 21 demographically matched healthy control subjects. Participants chose rental apartments in a standard information board task drawn from the literature on normal decision making. VMF subjects performed the decision making task in a way that differed markedly from all other groups, favouring an 'alternative-based' information acquisition strategy (i.e. they organized their information search around individual apartments). In contrast, both healthy control subjects and subjects with damage predominantly involving dorsal and/or lateral prefrontal cortex pursued primarily 'attribute-based' search strategies (in which information was acquired about categories such as rent and noise level across several apartments). This difference in the pattern of information acquisition argues for systematic differences in the underlying decision heuristics and strategies employed by subjects with VMF damage, which in turn may affect the quality of their choices. These findings suggest that the processes supported by ventral and medial prefrontal cortex need to be conceptualized more broadly, to account for changes in decision making under conditions of certainty, as well as uncertainty, following damage to these areas.

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    • "While there was no " optimal " choice in the current study, it is worth noting that after making their choice, which always consisted of two options, participants were presented with eight choice-relevant information options. While previous research has demonstrated that vmPFC function is involved in decision-making in the context of multiple options (Chau et al., 2014; Noonan et al., 2010), other studies have shown that vmPFC injury does not alter initial decision times even for complex choices (Fellows, 2006). The data in the current study are consistent with the notion that vmPFC patients' impairment in decision certainty may emerge in more complex post-decisional situations, as in the post-choice bets (5 options) made in the study by Rogers et al. (1999), and as in the real world where many post-decisional options are often available. "
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    ABSTRACT: The certainty that one feels following a decision increases decision-making efficiency, but can also result in decreased decision accuracy. In the current study, a neuropsychological approach was used to examine the impact of damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) on core psychological processes promoting decision certainty: selective exposure, overconfidence, and decisiveness. Given previous research demonstrating that vmPFC damage disrupts the generation of negative emotional (somatic) states that have been associated with selective exposure and overconfidence, it was hypothesized that damage to the vmPFC would disrupt engagement in selective exposure, decrease overconfidence, and increase indecision. Individuals with vmPFC damage exhibited increased indecision, but contrary to our hypothesis, engaged in similar levels of selective exposure and overconfidence as the comparison groups. These results indicate that indecision may be an important psychological mechanism involved in decision-making impairments associated with vmPFC injury. The results also suggest that the vmPFC may not be critical for selective exposure or overconfidence, which provides support for a recent "desirability" account of selective exposure. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
    Neuropsychologia 02/2015; 70. DOI:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2015.02.036 · 3.30 Impact Factor
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    • "First, a large number of neuroimaging and lesion studies have identified the vmPFC as the most likely locus for reward value comparison (Levy and Glimcher, 2012; Rangel and Clithero, 2012; Rushworth et al., 2011). Second, lesions to vmPFC are associated with deficits in choices between similarly valued items, possibly leading to inconsistent choices and shifts in choice strategy (Camille et al., 2011; Fellows, 2006; Noonan et al., 2010; Walton et al., 2010). Third, activity in this area correlates with the difference between offered values, suggesting that it may implement a value comparison process (Boorman et al., 2013; FitzGerald et al., 2009; Philiastides et al., 2010). "
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    ABSTRACT: Recent theories suggest that reward-based choice reflects competition between value signals in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). We tested this idea by recording vmPFC neurons while macaques performed a gambling task with asynchronous offer presentation. We found that neuronal activity shows four patterns consistent with selection via mutual inhibition: (1) correlated tuning for probability and reward size, suggesting that vmPFC carries an integrated value signal; (2) anti-correlated tuning curves for the two options, suggesting mutual inhibition; (3) neurons rapidly come to signal the value of the chosen offer, suggesting the circuit serves to produce a choice; and (4) after regressing out the effects of option values, firing rates still could predict choice-a choice probability signal. In addition, neurons signaled gamble outcomes, suggesting that vmPFC contributes to both monitoring and choice processes. These data suggest a possible mechanism for reward-based choice and endorse the centrality of vmPFC in that process.
    Neuron 05/2014; 82(6). DOI:10.1016/j.neuron.2014.04.032 · 15.05 Impact Factor
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    • "On the other hand, these patients typically show deficits in judgment and decision making under uncertainty and risk, as shown in the Iowa Gambling Task (Anderson, Barrash, Bechara, & Tranel, 2006). In addition, as compared to subjects with dorsolateral frontal damage and normal controls, subjects with vmPFC lesions have shown a different, less efficient search procedure in complex, multiattribute decision making task like a simulated real life choice (Fellows, 2006). The latter would suggest that, in line with the semantic activation and coherence hypothesis, the vmPFC is involved in a more general evaluation of contextual information. "
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    ABSTRACT: Two hypotheses about the role of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) in narrative comprehension inferences, global semantic coherence versus socio-emotional perspective, were tested. Seven patients with vmPFC lesions and seven demographically matched healthy comparison participants read short narratives. Using the consistency paradigm, narratives required participants to make either an emotional or visuo-spatial inference, in which a target sentence provided consistent or inconsistent information with a previous emotional state of a character or a visuo-spatial location of an object. Healthy comparison participants made the inferences both for spatial and emotional stories, as shown by longer reading times for inconsistent critical sentences. For patients with vmPFC lesions, inconsistent sentences were read slower in the spatial stories, but not in the emotional ones. This pattern of results is compatible with the hypothesis that vmPFC contributes to narrative comprehension by supporting inferences about socio-emotional aspects of verbally described situations.
    Brain and Language 02/2014; 129(1):58–64. DOI:10.1016/j.bandl.2013.12.003 · 3.22 Impact Factor
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