Dissociable neural mechanisms track evidence accumulation for selection of attention versus action

Nat Commun. 2018 Jun 27;9(1):2485. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-04841-1.


Decision-making is typically studied as a sequential process from the selection of what to attend (e.g., between possible tasks, stimuli, or stimulus attributes) to which actions to take based on the attended information. However, people often process information across these various levels in parallel. Here we scan participants while they simultaneously weigh how much to attend to two dynamic stimulus attributes and what response to give. Regions of the prefrontal cortex track information about the stimulus attributes in dissociable ways, related to either the predicted reward (ventromedial prefrontal cortex) or the degree to which that attribute is being attended (dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, dACC). Within the dACC, adjacent regions track correlates of uncertainty at different levels of the decision, regarding what to attend versus how to respond. These findings bridge research on perceptual and value-based decision-making, demonstrating that people dynamically integrate information in parallel across different levels of decision-making.

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

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Female
  • Functional Neuroimaging
  • Gyrus Cinguli / diagnostic imaging
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Prefrontal Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Psychometrics
  • Reward
  • Young Adult