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Prefrontal mechanisms combining rewards and beliefs in human decision-making

Rouault, M; Drugowitsch, J; Koechlin, E; (2019) Prefrontal mechanisms combining rewards and beliefs in human decision-making. Nature Communications , 10 (301) 10.1038/s41467-018-08121-w. Green open access

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Abstract

In uncertain and changing environments, optimal decision-making requires integrating reward expectations with probabilistic beliefs about reward contingencies. Little is known, however, about how the prefrontal cortex (PFC), which subserves decision-making, combines these quantities. Here, using computational modelling and neuroimaging, we show that the ventromedial PFC encodes both reward expectations and proper beliefs about reward contingencies, while the dorsomedial PFC combines these quantities and guides choices that are at variance with those predicted by optimal decision theory: instead of integrating reward expectations with beliefs, the dorsomedial PFC built context-dependent reward expectations commensurable to beliefs and used these quantities as two concurrent appetitive components, driving choices. This neural mechanism accounts for well-known risk aversion effects in human decision-making. The results reveal that the irrationality of human choices commonly theorized as deriving from optimal computations over false beliefs, actually stems from suboptimal neural heuristics over rational beliefs about reward contingencies.

Type: Article
Title: Prefrontal mechanisms combining rewards and beliefs in human decision-making
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-08121-w
Publisher version: http://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-08121-w
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author(s) 2019. Open Access 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/.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology > Imaging Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10067103
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