Psychology Magazine

Separate Prefrontal Areas Code Desirability Versus Availability.

By Deric Bownds @DericBownds
When we make a decision, we calculate its “expected value,” by multiplying the value of something (how much we want or need it) with the probability that we might be able to obtain it, a concept first introduced by 17th-century mathematician Blaise Pascal. Rudebeck et al. show that this value determination involves two separate prefrontal areas:
Advantageous foraging choices benefit from an estimation of two aspects of a resource’s value: its current desirability and availability. Both orbitofrontal and ventrolateral prefrontal areas contribute to updating these valuations, but their precise roles remain unclear. To explore their specializations, we trained macaque monkeys on two tasks: one required updating representations of a predicted outcome’s desirability, as adjusted by selective satiation, and the other required updating representations of an outcome’s availability, as indexed by its probability. We evaluated performance on both tasks in three groups of monkeys: unoperated controls and those with selective, fiber-sparing lesions of either the OFC or VLPFC. Representations that depend on the VLPFC but not the OFC play a necessary role in choices based on outcome availability; in contrast, representations that depend on the OFC but not the VLPFC play a necessary role in choices based on outcome desirability.
Both OFC and VLPFC send connections to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC), and functional magnetic resonance imaging suggests that the VMPFC may be where choices ultimately get made.

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