The Neural Instantiation of an Abstract Cognitive Map for Economic Choice

Neuroscience. 2021 Nov 21:477:106-114. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2021.09.011. Epub 2021 Sep 17.


Since the discovery of cognitive maps in rodent hippocampus (HC), the cognitive map has evolved from originally referring to spatial representations encoding locations and objects in Euclidean spaces to a general low-dimensional organization of information along selected feature dimensions. A cognitive map includes hypothetical constructs that bridge between environmental stimuli and the final overt behavior. To neuroeconomists, utility and utility functions are such constructs with neurobiological basis that drive choice behavior. Emergence of distinct functional neuron groups in the primate orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) during simple economic choice indicates the formation of an abstract cognitive map for organizing information of goods for value computation. Experimental evidence suggests that organization of neuronal activity in such cognitive map reflects the abstraction of core task features. Thus, such map can be adapted to accommodate economic choices under various task contexts.

Keywords: cognitive map; economic choice; orbitofrontal cortex; subjective value.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Choice Behavior
  • Cognition
  • Neurons*
  • Prefrontal Cortex*