The orbitofrontal cortex

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 1996 Oct 29;351(1346):1433-43; discussion 1443-4. doi: 10.1098/rstb.1996.0128.


The orbitofrontal cortex contains the secondary taste cortex, in which the reward value of taste is represented. It also contains the secondary and tertiary olfactory cortical areas, in which information about the identity and also about the reward value of odours is represented. The orbitofrontal cortex also receives information about the sight of objects from the temporal lobe cortical visual areas, and is involved in learning and in reversing stimulus-reinforcement associations. The stimulus might be a visual or olfactory stimulus, and the primary (unlearned) reinforcer a taste or touch. Damage to the orbitofrontal cortex impairs the learning and reversal of stimulus-reinforcement associations, and thus the correction of behavioural responses when these are no longer appropriate because previous reinforcement contingencies change. The information which reaches the orbitofrontal cortex for these functions includes information about faces, and damage to the orbitofrontal cortex can impair face expression identification. This evidence thus shows that the orbitofrontal cortex is involved in decoding some primary reinforcers such as taste; in learning and reversing associations of visual and other stimuli to these primary reinforcers; and plays an executive function in controlling and correcting reward-related and punishment-related behaviour, and thus in emotion.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / physiology
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Macaca
  • Neurophysiology
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology*
  • Orbit / physiology*
  • Orbit / physiopathology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology
  • Taste / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*