Decision Making Journal Club

Category-dependent and category-independent goal- value codes in human ventromedial prefrontal cortex

To choose between manifestly distinct options, it is suggested that the brain assigns values to goals using a common currency. Although previous studies have reported activity in ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) correlating with the value of different goal stimuli, it remains unclear whether such goal-value representations are independent of the associated stimulus categorization, as required by a common currency. Using multivoxel pattern analyses on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data, we found a region of medial prefrontal cortex to contain a distributed goal-value code that is independent of stimulus category. More ventrally in the vmPFC, we found spatially distinct areas of the medial orbitofrontal cortex to contain unique category-dependent distributed value codes for food and consumer items. These results implicate the medial prefrontal cortex in the implementation of a common currency and suggest a ventral versus dorsal topographical organization of value signals in the vmPFC.