Overlapping responses for the expectation of juice and money rewards in human ventromedial prefrontal cortex

Cereb Cortex. 2011 Apr;21(4):769-76. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhq145. Epub 2010 Aug 23.


Although much is known about the neural substrates of reward, the question of whether expectation of different types of reinforcers engage distinct or overlapping brain circuitry has not been addressed definitively. In the present study, human subjects, while being scanned with functional magnetic resonance imaging, performed a simple reward-based action selection task to obtain different magnitudes of either monetary outcomes (winning or losing money) or juice outcomes (pleasant apple juice or an unpleasant salt flavor). At the group level, we found partially overlapping value-related activity within ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) during anticipation of juice and money reward outcomes. Analogous results were found in the right anterior insula, except that this region showed negative correlations as a function of increasing expected reward. These results indicate that vmPFC and anterior insula contain overlapping representations of anticipatory value, consistent with the existence of a common currency for the value of expected outcomes in these regions.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Motivation / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Reward*