Background: Neural processes within the medial prefrontal cortex play a crucial role in assessing and integrating emotional and other implicit information during decision-making. Phylogenetically, it was important for the individual to assess the relevance of all kinds of environmental stimuli in order to adapt behavior in a flexible manner. Consequently, we can in principle not exclude that environmental information covertly influences the evaluation of actually decision relevant facts ("framing effect").
Objective: To test the hypothesis that the medial prefrontal cortex is involved into a framing effect we employed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during a binary credibility judgment task.
Methods: Twenty-one subjects were asked to judge 30 normalized news magazine headlines by forced answers as "true" or "false". To confound the judgments by formally irrelevant framing information we presented each of the headlines in four different news magazines characterized by varying credibility. For each subject the susceptibility to the judgment confounder (framing information) was assessed by magazine-specific modifications of the answers given.
Results: We could show that individual activity changes of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex during the judgments correlate with the degree of an individual's susceptibility to the framing information.
Conclusion: We found (i) a neural correlate of a framing effect as postulated by behavioral decision theorists that (ii) reflects interindividual differences in the degree of the susceptibility to framing information.