Orbitofrontal cortex uses distinct codes for different choice attributes in decisions motivated by curiosity

Neuron. 2015 Feb 4;85(3):602-14. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2014.12.050. Epub 2015 Jan 22.


Decision makers are curious and consequently value advance information about future events. We made use of this fact to test competing theories of value representation in area 13 of orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). In a new task, we found that monkeys reliably sacrificed primary reward (water) to view advance information about gamble outcomes. While monkeys integrated information value with primary reward value to make their decisions, OFC neurons had no systematic tendency to integrate these variables, instead encoding them in orthogonal manners. These results suggest that the predominant role of the OFC is to encode variables relevant for learning, attention, and decision making, rather than integrating them into a single scale of value. They also suggest that OFC may be placed at a relatively early stage in the hierarchy of information-seeking decisions, before evaluation is complete. Thus, our results delineate a circuit for information-seeking decisions and suggest a neural basis for curiosity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Choice Behavior / physiology*
  • Decision Making / physiology
  • Exploratory Behavior / physiology*
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology*
  • Haplorhini
  • Motivation / physiology*
  • Random Allocation
  • Reward*