Anticipated reward magnitude and probability comprise dual components of expected value (EV), a cornerstone of economic and psychological theory. However, the neural mechanisms that compute EV have not been characterized. Using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging, we examined neural activation as subjects anticipated monetary gains and losses that varied in magnitude and probability. Group analyses indicated that, although the subcortical nucleus accumbens (NAcc) activated proportional to anticipated gain magnitude, the cortical mesial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) additionally activated according to anticipated gain probability. Individual difference analyses indicated that, although NAcc activation correlated with self-reported positive arousal, MPFC activation correlated with probability estimates. These findings suggest that mesolimbic brain regions support the computation of EV in an ascending and distributed manner: whereas subcortical regions represent an affective component, cortical regions also represent a probabilistic component, and, furthermore, may integrate the two.
"In this regard, the intense dopaminergic projection from the ventral tegmental area (VTA) to the prelimbic cortex is particularly noteworthy (Naneix et al., 2009), given that dopamine-producing cells have been shown to compute the difference between the expected and the actual value of an outcome, often called reward prediction error (Cohen et al., 2012). It is noteworthy that the anterior cingulate cortex, another mPFC region, has also been shown to encode the expected value of an outcome , factoring the real magnitude of the reward and its cost (including its risk, its delay, and the effort necessary to retrieve it; Knutson et al., 2005; Kable and Glimcher, 2007; Rushworth and Behrens, 2008); its activation increases as a function of cognitive control demanded by the task (Brown and Braver, 2005). Chronic stress response induces an overall atrophy and hypofunction of this network that correlates with a facilitated shift from goal-directed to habit-based decisions (Dias-Ferreira et al., 2009, for rodents; Soares et al., 2012, for humans). "
"Studies on reward (Knutson et al., 2005; O'Doherty et al., 2001) or positive feedback processing (Camara et al., 2010, 2009; Nieuwenhuis et al., 2005) have revealed an extended network including the ventral striatum, amygdala, insula, ventromedial prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex among others. However , the mechanisms that allow the integration of information of the different nodes of this network are largely unknown. "
"These studies have consistently found ToM-specific activity in the temporoparietal junction (TPJ) (Saxe and Kanwisher, 2003; Saxe and Wexler, 2005; Kobayashi et al., 2007), and the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) (Fletcher et al., 1995; Goel et al., 1995; Brunet et al., 2000; Gallagher et al., 2000, 2002; Vogeley et al., 2001; Kobayashi et al., 2006). Within the sub-regions of the mPFC, the anterior rostral (ar)-mPFC is specifically implicated in mentalizing or ToM (Amodio and Frith, 2006), the posterior-rostral (pr)-mPFC is more important for monitoring personally-guided or one's own intentions (Grezes et al., 2004; Walton et al., 2004), and the orbital (o)-mPFC is more specialized for anticipating outcomes or rewards of other-guided actions (Walton et al., 2004; Knutson et al., 2005). Other regions that are often correlated with ToM tasks include the temporal pole (Gallagher et al., 2000; Vogeley et al., 2001), the precuneus (Saxe and Kanwisher, 2003; Kobayashi et al., 2006), the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), and the amygdala (Baron-Cohen, 1994; Baron-Cohen et al., 1999). "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Increasing research evidence suggests that women are more advanced than men in pragmatic language comprehension and Theory of Mind (ToM), which is a cognitive component of empathy. We measured the hemodynamic responses of men and women while they performed a second-order false-belief (FB) task and a coherent story (CS) task. During the FB condition relative to the baseline (unlinked sentences [US]), we found convergent activity in ToM network regions, such as the temporoparietal junction (TPJ) bilaterally and precuneus, in both sexes. We also found a greater activity in the left medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and a greater deactivation in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC)/orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) bilaterally in women compared to men. However, we did not find difference in the brain activity between the sexes during the FB condition relative to the CS condition. The results suggest significant overlap between neural bases of pragmatic language comprehension and ToM in both men and women. Taken together, these results support the extreme male brain (EMB) hypothesis by demonstrating sex difference in the neural basis of ToM and pragmatic language, both of which are found to be impaired in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In addition, the results also suggest that women use both cognitive empathy (dorsal mPFC) and affective empathy (vmPFC) networks more than men for false-belief reasoning.
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