Human medial orbitofrontal cortex is recruited during experience of imagined and real rewards

J Neurophysiol. 2010 May;103(5):2506-12. doi: 10.1152/jn.01030.2009. Epub 2010 Mar 3.


Human decision-making frequently relies on mental simulation of future rewards to guide action choice. In this study, we sought to uncover brain regions engaged during reward imagery and to address whether these regions functionally overlap with regions activated by tangible rewards. We found that medial orbitofrontal cortex (mOFC) is engaged both for real and imagined rewards and is preferentially engaged for imagery with rewarding content compared with other nonrewarding imagery. These findings support a critical role for mOFC in the representation of rewarding goal states, even if hypothetical.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Electromyography
  • Executive Function / physiology
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology*
  • Hand / physiology
  • Humans
  • Imagination / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Motion Perception / physiology
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reversal Learning / physiology
  • Reward*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Visual Perception / physiology
  • Young Adult