Article | Published:

Neuronal remapping and circuit persistence in economic decisions

Nature Neuroscience volume 19, pages 855861 (2016) | Download Citation

Abstract

The orbitofrontal cortex plays a central role in good-based economic decisions. When subjects make choices, neurons in this region represent the identities and values of offered and chosen goods. Notably, choices in different behavioral contexts may involve a potentially infinite variety of goods. Thus a fundamental question concerns the stability versus flexibility of the decision circuit. Here we show in rhesus monkeys that neurons encoding the identity or the subjective value of particular goods in a given context 'remap' and become associated with different goods when the context changes. At the same time, the overall organization of the decision circuit and the function of individual cells remain stable across contexts. In particular, two neurons supporting the same decision in one context also support the same decision in different contexts. These results demonstrate how the same neural circuit can underlie economic decisions involving a large variety of goods.

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Acknowledgements

We thank H. Schoknecht for help with animal training, A. Raghuraman for help with recording and X. Cai, K. Conen, E. Han, I. Monosov and L. Snyder for comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grant numbers R01-DA032758 and R01-MH104494 to C.P.-S.) and by the McDonnell Center for Systems Neuroscience (predoctoral fellowship to J.X.).

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Neuroscience, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri, USA.

    • Jue Xie
    •  & Camillo Padoa-Schioppa
  2. Department of Economics, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri, USA.

    • Camillo Padoa-Schioppa
  3. Department of Biomedical Engineering, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri, USA.

    • Camillo Padoa-Schioppa

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Contributions

J.X. and C.P.-S. designed the study; J.X. collected and analyzed the data; J.X. and C.P.-S. wrote the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Camillo Padoa-Schioppa.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.4300

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