Orbitofrontal cortex and its contribution to decision-making

Annu Rev Neurosci. 2007:30:31-56. doi: 10.1146/annurev.neuro.30.051606.094334.


Damage to orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) produces an unusual pattern of deficits. Patients have intact cognitive abilities but are impaired in making everyday decisions. Here we review anatomical, neuropsychological, and neurophysiological evidence to determine the neuronal mechanisms that might underlie these impairments. We suggest that OFC plays a key role in processing reward: It integrates multiple sources of information regarding the reward outcome to derive a value signal. In effect, OFC calculates how rewarding a reward is. This value signal can then be held in working memory where it can be used by lateral prefrontal cortex to plan and organize behavior toward obtaining the outcome, and by medial prefrontal cortex to evaluate the overall action in terms of its success and the effort that was required. Thus, acting together, these prefrontal areas can ensure that our behavior is most efficiently directed towards satisfying our needs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology
  • Mental Disorders / physiopathology
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Models, Neurological
  • Motivation*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Reward*