The neural correlates of subjective value during intertemporal choice

Nat Neurosci. 2007 Dec;10(12):1625-33. doi: 10.1038/nn2007. Epub 2007 Nov 4.


Neuroimaging studies of decision-making have generally related neural activity to objective measures (such as reward magnitude, probability or delay), despite choice preferences being subjective. However, economic theories posit that decision-makers behave as though different options have different subjective values. Here we use functional magnetic resonance imaging to show that neural activity in several brain regions--particularly the ventral striatum, medial prefrontal cortex and posterior cingulate cortex--tracks the revealed subjective value of delayed monetary rewards. This similarity provides unambiguous evidence that the subjective value of potential rewards is explicitly represented in the human brain.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Psychometrics / methods
  • Reinforcement Schedule
  • Reward*
  • Time Factors


  • Oxygen