Decision-making in the presence of uncertainty, i.e., selecting a sequence of responses in an uncertain environment according to a self-generated plan of action, is a complex activity that involves both cognitive and noncognitive processes. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, the neural substrates of decision-making in the presence of uncertainty are examined. Normal control subjects show a significant activation of a frontoparietal and limbic neural system during a two-choice prediction task relative to a two-choice response task. The most prevalent response strategy during the two-choice prediction task was "win-stay/lose-shift," where subjects will repeat the previous response if it successfully predicted the stimulus and switch to the alternative response otherwise. Increased frequency of responses that are consistent with this strategy is associated with activation in the superior temporal gyrus. In comparison, increased frequency of response inconsistent with win-stay/lose-shift is associated with parietal cortex activation. These results support the hypothesis that subjects use a frontoparietal neural system to establish a contingency based decision-making strategy even in the presence of random reinforcement.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.