Neural representations of subjective reward value

Behav Brain Res. 2010 Dec 1;213(2):135-41. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2010.04.031. Epub 2010 Apr 24.


Decision neuroscience suggests that there exists a core network for the subjective valuation of rewards from a range of different domains, encompassing the ventral striatum and regions of the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), in particular the ventromedial aspect of the OFC. Here we first review ways to measure subjective value experimentally in a cognitive neuroscience context, and provide a brief overview over different types of value (outcome, goal and decision value). We then compare results of functional neuroimaging studies of subjective value representations across these different types of value. Our analysis suggests that the same region of the mOFC represents the outcome values of primary reinforcers, but also more complex decision values in which multiple dimensions of the reward need to be integrated. The subjective (hedonic) experience of processing highly valued decision options (regardless of whether they refer to actually experienced rewards or merely potential future rewards) appears to be what is reflected in value-related mOFC activity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basal Ganglia / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Classification
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Reward*