A Caltech Library Service

Calculating consequences: brain systems that encode the causal effects of actions

Tanaka, Saori C. and Balleine, Bernard W. and O'Doherty, John P. (2008) Calculating consequences: brain systems that encode the causal effects of actions. Journal of Neuroscience, 28 (26). pp. 6750-6755. ISSN 0270-6474. PMCID PMC3071565. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1808-08.2008.

PDF - Published Version
Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike.


Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


The capacity to accurately evaluate the causal effectiveness of our actions is key to successfully adapting to changing environments. Here we scanned subjects using functional magnetic resonance imaging while they pressed a button to earn money as the response–reward relationship changed over time. Subjects’ judgments about the causal efficacy of their actions reflected the objective contingency between the rate of button pressing and the amount of money they earned. Neural responses in medial orbitofrontal cortex and dorsomedial striatum were modulated as a function of contingency, by increasing in activity during sessions when actions were highly causal compared with when they were not. Moreover, medial prefrontal cortex tracked local changes in action–outcome correlations, implicating this region in the on-line computation of contingency. These results reveal the involvement of distinct brain regions in the computational processes that establish the causal efficacy of actions, providing insight into the neural mechanisms underlying the adaptive control of behavior.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription CentralArticle
O'Doherty, John P.0000-0003-0016-3531
Additional Information:© 2008 Society for Neuroscience. Received Nov. 28, 2007; accepted May 20, 2008. This work was supported by a grant from National Institute of Mental Health to J.P.O.D. and by grants from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to J.P.O.D. and the Caltech Brain Imaging Center. S.C.T. is funded by research fellowships from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science for Young Scientists.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)UNSPECIFIED
Gordon and Betty Moore FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Caltech Brain Imaging CenterUNSPECIFIED
Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS)UNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:goal-directed behavior; contingency; causality; free-operant conditioning; fMRI; prefrontal cortex
Issue or Number:26
PubMed Central ID:PMC3071565
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:TANjns08
Persistent URL:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:13815
Deposited On:06 Apr 2009 22:48
Last Modified:08 Nov 2021 22:40

Repository Staff Only: item control page