Value, pleasure and choice in the ventral prefrontal cortex

Trends Cogn Sci. 2011 Feb;15(2):56-67. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2010.12.004. Epub 2011 Jan 7.


Rapid advances have recently been made in understanding how value-based decision-making processes are implemented in the brain. We integrate neuroeconomic and computational approaches with evidence on the neural correlates of value and experienced pleasure to describe how systems for valuation and decision-making are organized in the prefrontal cortex of humans and other primates. We show that the orbitofrontal and ventromedial prefrontal (VMPFC) cortices compute expected value, reward outcome and experienced pleasure for different stimuli on a common value scale. Attractor networks in VMPFC area 10 then implement categorical decision processes that transform value signals into a choice between the values, thereby guiding action. This synthesis of findings across fields provides a unifying perspective for the study of decision-making processes in the brain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Choice Behavior / physiology*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Economic
  • Pleasure / physiology*
  • Pleasure-Pain Principle
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Primates
  • Reward*