A mechanistic account of value computation in the human brain

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 May 18;107(20):9430-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1001732107. Epub 2010 May 3.


To make decisions based on the value of different options, we often have to combine different sources of probabilistic evidence. For example, when shopping for strawberries on a fruit stand, one uses their color and size to infer-with some uncertainty-which strawberries taste best. Despite much progress in understanding the neural underpinnings of value-based decision making in humans, it remains unclear how the brain represents different sources of probabilistic evidence and how they are used to compute value signals needed to drive the decision. Here, we use a visual probabilistic categorization task to show that regions in ventral temporal cortex encode probabilistic evidence for different decision alternatives, while ventromedial prefrontal cortex integrates information from these regions into a value signal using a difference-based comparator operation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Probability
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*
  • Time Factors