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The Role of the Medial Prefrontal Cortex in Spatial Margin of Safety Calculations

Qi, Song and Cross, Logan and Wise, Toby and Sui, Xin and O'Doherty, John and Mobbs, Dean (2020) The Role of the Medial Prefrontal Cortex in Spatial Margin of Safety Calculations. . (Unpublished)

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Humans, like many other animals, pre-empt danger by moving to locations that maximize their success at escaping future threats. We test the idea that spatial margin of safety (MOS) decisions, a form of pre-emptive avoidance, results in participants placing themselves closer to safer locations when facing more unpredictable threats. Using multivariate pattern analysis on fMRI data collected while subjects engaged in MOS decisions with varying attack location predictability, we show that while the hippocampus encodes MOS decisions across all types of threat, a vmPFC anterior-posterior gradient tracked threat predictability. The posterior vmPFC encoded for more unpredictable threat and showed functional coupling with the amygdala and hippocampus. Conversely, the anterior vmPFC was more active for the more predictable attacks and showed coupling with the striatum. Our findings suggest that when pre-empting danger, the anterior vmPFC may provide a safety signal, possibly via predictable positive outcomes, while the posterior vmPFC drives prospective danger signals.

Item Type:Report or Paper (Discussion Paper)
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URLURL TypeDescription Paper
Wise, Toby0000-0002-9021-3282
O'Doherty, John0000-0003-0016-3531
Mobbs, Dean0000-0003-1175-3772
Additional Information:The copyright holder for this preprint is the author/funder, who has granted bioRxiv a license to display the preprint in perpetuity. It is made available under a CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 International license. Posted June 08, 2020.
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20200610-095313820
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Official Citation:The Role of the Medial Prefrontal Cortex in Spatial Margin of Safety Calculations. Song Qi, Logan Cross, Toby Wise, Xin Sui, John O'Doherty, dean Mobbs. bioRxiv 2020.06.05.137075; doi:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:103816
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:10 Jun 2020 17:57
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 18:25

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