Neuronal origins of choice variability in economic decisions

Neuron. 2013 Dec 4;80(5):1322-36. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2013.09.013.


To investigate the mechanisms through which economic decisions are formed, I examined the activity of neurons in the orbitofrontal cortex while monkeys chose between different juice types. Different classes of cells encoded the value of individual offers (offer value), the value of the chosen option (chosen value), or the identity of the chosen juice (chosen juice). Choice variability was partly explained by the tendency to repeat choices (choice hysteresis). Surprisingly, near-indifference decisions did not reflect fluctuations in the activity of offer value cells. In contrast, near-indifference decisions correlated with fluctuations in the preoffer activity of chosen juice cells. After the offer, the activity of chosen juice cells reflected the decision difficulty but did not resemble a race-to-threshold. Finally, chosen value cells presented an "activity overshooting" closely related to the decision difficulty and possibly due to fluctuations in the relative value of the juices. This overshooting was independent of choice hysteresis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Choice Behavior / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prefrontal Cortex / cytology*
  • Reward
  • Statistics as Topic