Neuronal selectivity for spatial positions of offers and choices in five reward regions

J Neurophysiol. 2016 Mar;115(3):1098-111. doi: 10.1152/jn.00325.2015. Epub 2015 Dec 2.


When we evaluate an option, how is the neural representation of its value linked to information that identifies it, such as its position in space? We hypothesized that value information and identity cues are not bound together at a particular point but are represented together at the single unit level throughout the entirety of the choice process. We examined neuronal responses in two-option gambling tasks with lateralized and asynchronous presentation of offers in five reward regions: orbitofrontal cortex (OFC, area 13), ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC, area 14), ventral striatum (VS), dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC), and subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (sgACC, area 25). Neuronal responses in all areas are sensitive to the positions of both offers and of choices. This selectivity is strongest in reward-sensitive neurons, indicating that it is not a property of a specialized subpopulation of cells. We did not find consistent contralateral or any other organization to these responses, indicating that they may be difficult to detect with aggregate measures like neuroimaging or studies of lesion effects. These results suggest that value coding is wed to factors that identify the object throughout the reward system and suggest a possible solution to the binding problem raised by abstract value encoding schemes.

Keywords: binding; decision making; prefrontal cortex; spatial tuning; value comparison.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Frontal Lobe / cytology
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology*
  • Limbic Lobe / cytology
  • Limbic Lobe / physiology
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Reward*
  • Space Perception*