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Published October 6, 2009 | Published + Supplemental Material
Journal Article Open

Neural computations underlying action-based decision making in the human brain


Action-based decision making involves choices between different physical actions to obtain rewards. To make such decisions the brain needs to assign a value to each action and then compare them to make a choice. Using fMRI in human subjects, we found evidence for action-value signals in supplementary motor cortex. Separate brain regions, most prominently ventromedial prefrontal cortex, were involved in encoding the expected value of the action that was ultimately taken. These findings differentiate two main forms of value signals in the human brain: those relating to the value of each available action, likely reflecting signals that are a precursor of choice, and those corresponding to the expected value of the action that is subsequently chosen, and therefore reflecting the consequence of the decision process. Furthermore, we also found signals in the dorsomedial frontal cortex that resemble the output of a decision comparator, which implicates this region in the computation of the decision itself.

Additional Information

© 2009 National Academy of Sciences. Edited by Ranulfo Romo, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico, D.F., Mexico, and approved August 6, 2009 (received for review February 4, 2009); published online before print September 28, 2009. Author contributions: K.W., A.R., and J.P.O. designed research; K.W. performed research; K.W. contributed new reagents/analytic tools; K.W. analyzed data; and K.W., A.R., and J.P.O. wrote the paper. This research was supported by grants from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to J.O.D. and A.R., a Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Scholarship to K.W., a Searle Schorlarship to J.O.D., and the Caltech Brain Imaging Center.

Attached Files

Published - Wunderlich2009p6070P_Natl_Acad_Sci_Usa.pdf

Supplemental Material - 0901077106SI.pdf


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