Preferences reveal dissociable encoding across prefrontal-limbic circuits

Neuron. 2024 Apr 10:S0896-6273(24)00198-3. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2024.03.020. Online ahead of print.


Individual preferences for the flavor of different foods and fluids exert a strong influence on behavior. Most current theories posit that preferences are integrated with other state variables in the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), which is thought to derive the relative subjective value of available options to guide choice behavior. Here, we report that instead of a single integrated valuation system in the OFC, another complementary one is centered in the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (vlPFC) in macaques. Specifically, we found that the OFC and vlPFC preferentially represent outcome flavor and outcome probability, respectively, and that preferences are separately integrated into value representations in these areas. In addition, the vlPFC, but not the OFC, represented the probability of receiving the available outcome flavors separately, with the difference between these representations reflecting the degree of preference for each flavor. Thus, both the vlPFC and OFC exhibit dissociable but complementary representations of subjective value, both of which are necessary for decision-making.

Keywords: amygdala; decision-making; flavor; orbitofrontal cortex; preference; probability; reward; satiety; valuation; ventrolateral prefrontal cortex.