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Frontopolar Cortex and Decision-Making Efficiency: Comparing Brain Activity of Experts With Different Professional Background During an Exploration-Exploitation Task


Frontopolar Cortex and Decision-Making Efficiency: Comparing Brain Activity of Experts With Different Professional Background During an Exploration-Exploitation Task

Daniella Laureiro-Martínez et al. Front Hum Neurosci.


An optimal balance between efficient exploitation of available resources and creative exploration of alternatives is critical for adaptation and survival. Previous studies associated these behavioral drives with, respectively, the dopaminergic mesocorticolimbic system and frontopolar-intraparietal networks. We study the activation of these systems in two age and gender-matched groups of experienced decision-makers differing in prior professional background, with the aim to understand the neural bases of individual differences in decision-making efficiency (performance divided by response time). We compare brain activity of entrepreneurs (who currently manage the organization they founded based on their venture idea) and managers (who are constantly involved in making strategic decisions but have no venture experience) engaged in a gambling-task assessing exploitative vs. explorative decision-making. Compared with managers, entrepreneurs showed higher decision-making efficiency, and a stronger activation in regions of frontopolar cortex (FPC) previously associated with explorative choice. Moreover, activity across a network of regions previously linked to explore/exploit tradeoffs explained individual differences in choice efficiency. These results suggest new avenues for the study of individual differences in the neural antecedents of efficient decision-making.

Keywords: decision-making; efficiency; exploration-exploitation; fMRI; frontopolar cortex.


Figure 1
Figure 1
4-armed bandit task. Graphical representation of the 4-armed bandit task and of the slots' payoff functions [following the task design of Daw et al. (2006)].
Figure 2
Figure 2
Behavioral results. Decision-making efficiency in explorative and exploitative choices for the group of managers (dotted line) and entrepreneurs (simple line). The vertical bars reflect the standard errors.
Figure 3
Figure 3
Cerebral regions differentially activated by explorative and exploitative choices. The cerebral regions that were more strongly activated by exploitative than explorative choices (left), and by explorative than exploitative choices (right).
Figure 4
Figure 4
Behavioral and predicted efficiency scores. The relationship between behavioral decision-making efficiency (payoff divided by response time) during fMRI scanning and estimated efficiency, based on the activity of seven regions reported in previous studies and showing a significant difference between exploitative and explorative choice [vmPFC, bilateral FPC, and IPS from Daw et al. (2006); right FPC by Boorman et al. (2009); dorsal sector of anterior cingulate cortex by Kolling et al. (2012)].

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