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Choosing the lesser of two evils, the better of two goods: Specifying the roles of ventromedial prefrontal cortex and dorsal anterior cingulate in object choice

Blair, KS; Marsh, AA; Morton, J; Vythilingam, M; Jones, MM; K, P; D C, D; (2006) Choosing the lesser of two evils, the better of two goods: Specifying the roles of ventromedial prefrontal cortex and dorsal anterior cingulate in object choice. Journal of Neuroscience , 26 (44) 11379 - 11386. 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1640-06.2006. Green open access

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Abstract

The ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and dorsal anterior cingulate cortices (ACd) are considered important for reward-based decision making. However, work distinguishing their individual functional contributions has only begun. One aspect of decision making that has received little attention is that making the right choice often translates to making the better choice. Thus, response choice often occurs in situations where both options are desirable (e.g., choosing between mousse au chocolat or crème caramel cheesecake from a menu) or, alternatively, in situations where both options are undesirable. Moreover, response choice is easier when the reinforcements associated with the objects are far apart, rather than close together, in value. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to delineate the functional roles of the vmPFC and ACd by investigating these two aspects of decision making: (1) decision form (i.e., choosing between two objects to gain the greater reward or the lesser punishment), and (2) between-object reinforcement distance (i.e., the difference in reinforcements associated with the two objects). Blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) responses within the ACd and vmPFC were both related to decision form but differentially. Whereas ACd showed greater responses when deciding between objects to gain the lesser punishment, vmPFC showed greater responses when deciding between objects to gain the greater reward. Moreover, vmPFC was sensitive to reinforcement expectations associated with both the chosen and the forgone choice. In contrast, BOLD responses within ACd, but not vmPFC, related to between-object reinforcement distance, increasing as the distance between the reinforcements of the two objects decreased. These data are interpreted with reference to models of ACd and vmPFC functioning.

Type: Article
Title: Choosing the lesser of two evils, the better of two goods: Specifying the roles of ventromedial prefrontal cortex and dorsal anterior cingulate in object choice
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1640-06.2006
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1640-06.2006
Language: English
Additional information: This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. The license allows you to copy, distribute, and transmit the work, as well as adapting it. However, you must attribute the work to the author (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work), and cannot use the work for commercial purposes without prior permission of the author. If you alter or build upon this work, you can distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 444 Castro Street, Suite 900, Mountain View, California, 94041, USA.
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 > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/53023
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