Neural activity in the human brain relating to uncertainty and arousal during anticipation

Neuron. 2001 Feb;29(2):537-45. doi: 10.1016/s0896-6273(01)00225-2.


We used functional magnetic resonance neuroimaging to measure brain activity during delay between reward-related decisions and their outcomes, and the modulation of this delay activity by uncertainty and arousal. Feedback, indicating financial gain or loss, was given following a fixed delay. Anticipatory arousal was indexed by galvanic skin conductance. Delay-period activity was associated with bilateral activation in orbital and medial prefrontal, temporal, and right parietal cortices. During delay, activity in anterior cingulate and orbitofrontal cortices was modulated by outcome uncertainty, whereas anterior cingulate, dorsolateral prefrontal, and parietal cortices activity was modulated by degree of anticipatory arousal. A distinct region of anterior cingulate was commonly activated by both uncertainty and arousal. Our findings highlight distinct contributions of cognitive uncertainty and autonomic arousal to anticipatory neural activity in prefrontal cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology
  • Probability
  • Reward*