Motor preparatory activity in posterior parietal cortex is modulated by subjective absolute value

PLoS Biol. 2010 Aug 3;8(8):e1000444. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000444.


For optimal response selection, the consequences associated with behavioral success or failure must be appraised. To determine how monetary consequences influence the neural representations of motor preparation, human brain activity was scanned with fMRI while subjects performed a complex spatial visuomotor task. At the beginning of each trial, reward context cues indicated the potential gain and loss imposed for correct or incorrect trial completion. FMRI-activity in canonical reward structures reflected the expected value related to the context. In contrast, motor preparatory activity in posterior parietal and premotor cortex peaked in high "absolute value" (high gain or loss) conditions: being highest for large gains in subjects who believed they performed well while being highest for large losses in those who believed they performed poorly. These results suggest that the neural activity preceding goal-directed actions incorporates the absolute value of that action, predicated upon subjective, rather than objective, estimates of one's performance.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Motor Cortex / physiology
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time
  • Reward*