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Published September 12, 2007 | Supplemental Material + Published
Journal Article Open

Orbitofrontal Cortex Encodes Willingness to Pay in Everyday Economic Transactions


An essential component of every economic transaction is a willingness-to-pay (WTP) computation in which buyers calculate the maximum amount of financial resources that they are willing to give up in exchange for the object being sold. Despite its pervasiveness, little is known about how the brain makes this computation. We investigated the neural basis of the WTP computation by scanning hungry subjects' brains using functional magnetic resonance imaging while they placed real bids for the right to eat different foods. We found that activity in the medial orbitofrontal cortex and in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex encodes subjects' WTP for the items. Our results support the hypothesis that the medial orbitofrontal cortex encodes the value of goals in decision making.

Additional Information

© 2007 Society for Neuroscience. Received May 9, 2007; revised July 2, 2007; accepted July 24, 2007. This work was supported by the Moore Foundation, National Science Foundation Grant SES-0134618, and German Academic Exchange Service Grant DAAD D/05/47698. We thank Vivian Valentin, Jan Glaescher, Alan Hampton, and Axel Linder for their help with this work.

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