Cortico-limbic-striatal circuits subserving different forms of cost-benefit decision making

Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci. 2008 Dec;8(4):375-89. doi: 10.3758/CABN.8.4.375.


Research on the neural basis that underlies decision making in humans has revealed that these processes are mediated by distributed neural networks that incorporate different regions of the frontal lobes, the amygdala, the ventral striatum, and the dopamine system. In the present article, we review recent studies in rodents investigating the contribution of these systems to different forms of cost-benefit decision making and focus on evaluations related to delays, effort, or risks associated with certain rewards. Anatomically distinct regions of the medial and orbital prefrontal cortex make dissociable contributions to different forms of decision making, although lesions of these regions can induce variable effects, depending on the type of tasks used to assess these functions. The basolateral amygdala and the nucleus accumbens play a more fundamental role in these evaluations, helping an organism overcome different costs to obtain better rewards. Dopamine activity biases behavior toward more costly yet larger rewards, although abnormal increases in dopamine transmission can exert opposing actions on different types of decision making. The fact that similar neural circuits are recruited to solve these types of problems in both humans and animals suggests that animal models of decision making will prove useful in elucidating the mechanisms mediating these processes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Choice Behavior / physiology
  • Corpus Striatum / physiology
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Dopamine Agents / pharmacology
  • Limbic System / physiology
  • Maze Learning
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Nucleus Accumbens / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Dopamine / drug effects
  • Receptors, Dopamine / metabolism
  • Reward
  • Risk Reduction Behavior


  • Dopamine Agents
  • Receptors, Dopamine
  • Dopamine