Resolution of uncertainty in prefrontal cortex

Neuron. 2006 Jun 1;50(5):781-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2006.05.006.


Making optimal decisions in the face of uncertain or incomplete information arises as a common problem in everyday behavior, but the neural processes underlying this ability remain poorly understood. A typical case is navigation, in which a subject has to search for a known goal from an unknown location. Navigating under uncertain conditions requires making decisions on the basis of the current belief about location and updating that belief based on incoming information. Here, we use functional magnetic resonance imaging during a maze navigation task to study neural activity relating to the resolution of uncertainty as subjects make sequential decisions to reach a goal. We show that distinct regions of prefrontal cortex are engaged in specific computational functions that are well described by a Bayesian model of decision making. This permits efficient goal-oriented navigation and provides new insights into decision making by humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Female
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Markov Chains
  • Models, Neurological
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Space Perception / physiology