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Published August 24, 2010 | Supplemental Material + Published
Journal Article Open

Economic choices can be made using only stimulus values


Decision-making often involves choices between different stimuli, each of which is associated with a different physical action. A growing consensus suggests that the brain makes such decisions by assigning a value to each available option and then comparing them to make a choice. An open question in decision neuroscience is whether the brain computes these choices by comparing the values of stimuli directly in goods space or instead by first assigning values to the associated actions and then making a choice over actions. We used a functional MRI paradigm in which human subjects made choices between different stimuli with and without knowledge of the actions required to obtain the different stimuli. We found neural correlates of the value of the chosen stimulus (a postdecision signal) in ventromedial prefrontal cortex before the actual stimulus–action pairing was revealed. These findings provide support for the hypothesis that the brain is capable of making choices in the space of goods without first transferring values into action space.

Additional Information

© 2010 National Academy of Sciences. Edited by Ranulfo Romo, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Mexico D.F., Mexico, and approved July 15, 2010 (received for review February 22, 2010). We thank T. Behrens for insightful comments. This research was supported by grants from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (to J.P.O. and A.R.), a Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Scholarship (to K.W.), and a Searle Scholarship (to J.P.O.), and by the Caltech Brain Imaging Center. Author contributions: K.W., A.R., and J.P.O. designed research; K.W. performed research; K.W. analyzed data; and K.W., A.R., and J.P.O. wrote the paper. The authors declare no conflict of interest. This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.

Attached Files

Published - Wunderlich2010p11305P_Natl_Acad_Sci_Usa.pdf

Supplemental Material - pnas.201002258SI.pdf


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