Reward value comparison via mutual inhibition in ventromedial prefrontal cortex

Neuron. 2014 Jun 18;82(6):1357-66. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2014.04.032. Epub 2014 May 29.


Recent theories suggest that reward-based choice reflects competition between value signals in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). We tested this idea by recording vmPFC neurons while macaques performed a gambling task with asynchronous offer presentation. We found that neuronal activity shows four patterns consistent with selection via mutual inhibition: (1) correlated tuning for probability and reward size, suggesting that vmPFC carries an integrated value signal; (2) anti-correlated tuning curves for the two options, suggesting mutual inhibition; (3) neurons rapidly come to signal the value of the chosen offer, suggesting the circuit serves to produce a choice; and (4) after regressing out the effects of option values, firing rates still could predict choice-a choice probability signal. In addition, neurons signaled gamble outcomes, suggesting that vmPFC contributes to both monitoring and choice processes. These data suggest a possible mechanism for reward-based choice and endorse the centrality of vmPFC in that process.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Choice Behavior / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Random Allocation
  • Reward*