Dissociable contributions of ventromedial prefrontal and posterior parietal cortex to value-guided choice

Neuroimage. 2014 Oct 15;100(100):498-506. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2014.06.005. Epub 2014 Jun 15.


Two long-standing traditions have highlighted cortical decision mechanisms in the parietal and prefrontal cortices of primates, but it has not been clear how these processes differ, or when each cortical region may influence behaviour. Recent data from ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and posterior parietal cortex (PPC) have suggested one possible axis on which the two decision processes might be delineated. Fast decisions may be resolved primarily by parietal mechanisms, whereas decisions made without time pressure may rely on prefrontal mechanisms. Here, we report direct evidence for such dissociation. During decisions under time pressure, a value comparison process was evident in PPC, but not in vmPFC. Value-related activity was still found in vmPFC under time pressure. However, vmPFC represented overall input value rather than compared output value. In contrast, when decisions were made without time pressure, vmPFC transitioned to encode a value comparison while value-related parameters were entirely absent from PPC. Furthermore, under time pressure, decision performance was primarily governed by PPC, while it was dominated by vmPFC at longer decision times. These data demonstrate that parallel cortical mechanisms may resolve the same choices in differing circumstances, and offer an explanation of the diverse neural signals reported in vmPFC and PPC during value-guided choice.

Keywords: Decision making; Parietal cortex; Reward; Ventromedial prefrontal cortex; fMRI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Choice Behavior / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Reward*
  • Young Adult