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Published September 16, 2021 | Supplemental Material + Published + Submitted
Journal Article Open

Neural encoding of perceived patch value during competitive and hazardous virtual foraging


Natural observations suggest that in safe environments, organisms avoid competition to maximize gain, while in hazardous environments the most effective survival strategy is to congregate with competition to reduce the likelihood of predatory attack. We probed the extent to which survival decisions in humans follow these patterns, and examined the factors that determined individual-level decision-making. In a virtual foraging task containing changing levels of competition in safe and hazardous patches with virtual predators, we demonstrate that human participants inversely select competition avoidant and risk diluting strategies depending on perceived patch value (PPV), a computation dependent on reward, threat, and competition. We formulate a mathematically grounded quantification of PPV in social foraging environments and show using multivariate fMRI analyses that PPV is encoded by mid-cingulate cortex (MCC) and ventromedial prefrontal cortices (vMPFC), regions that integrate action and value signals. Together, these results suggest humans utilize and integrate multidimensional information to adaptively select patches highest in PPV, and that MCC and vMPFC play a role in adapting to both competitive and predatory threats in a virtual foraging setting.

Additional Information

© The Author(s) 2021. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. Received 30 September 2020; Accepted 26 August 2021; Published 16 September 2021. This work was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health grant 2P50MH094258 and 1 R01 AG043463-01, Chen Institute award P2026052, Templeton Foundation grant TWCF0366, Sir Henry Wellcome Fellowship 206460/Z/17/Z, the Max Planck Society and Humboldt Foundation. These authors contributed equally: Brian Silston, Toby Wise. Author Contributions: The study was conceptualized and designed by B.S., D.M., X.S., and P.D., and created by B.S. Material preparation, data collection, and analysis were performed by B.S., S.Q., X.S., and T.W. The first draft of the manuscript was written by B.S., D.M., and T.W. and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript. The authors declare no competing interests. Peer review information: Nature Communications thanks the anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work. Peer reviewer reports are available.

Attached Files

Published - s41467-021-25816-9.pdf

Submitted - 2020.09.11.294058v1.full.pdf

Supplemental Material - 41467_2021_25816_MOESM1_ESM.pdf

Supplemental Material - 41467_2021_25816_MOESM2_ESM.pdf

Supplemental Material - 41467_2021_25816_MOESM3_ESM.pdf

Supplemental Material - 41467_2021_25816_MOESM4_ESM.zip


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August 22, 2023
October 23, 2023