Article

Separate neural pathways process different decision costs

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Abstract

Behavioral ecologists and economists emphasize that potential costs, as well as rewards, influence decision making. Although neuroscientists assume that frontal areas are central to decision making, the evidence is contradictory and the critical region remains unclear. Here it is shown that frontal lobe contributions to cost-benefit decision making can be understood by positing the existence of two independent systems that make decisions about delay and effort costs. Anterior cingulate cortex lesions affected how much effort rats decided to invest for rewards. Orbitofrontal cortical lesions affected how long rats decided to wait for rewards. The pattern of disruption suggested the deficit could be related to impaired associative learning. Impairments of the two systems may underlie apathetic and impulsive choice patterns in neurological and psychiatric illnesses. Although the existence of two systems is not predicted by economic accounts of decision making, our results suggest that delay and effort may exert distinct influences on decision making.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank G. Daubeny for assistance with histology. This work was supported by the Medical Research Council (P.H.R., M.E.W. and M.F.S.R), the Royal Society (M.F.S.R.) and the Wellcome Trust (M.E.W. and D.M.B.).

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3UD, UK.

    • Peter H Rudebeck
    • , Mark E Walton
    • , Angharad N Smyth
    • , David M Bannerman
    •  & Matthew F S Rushworth

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Peter H Rudebeck.

Supplementary information

PDF files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Fig. 1

    Delay based decision-making training before surgery.

  2. 2.

    Supplementary Fig. 2

    Reconstructions of the minimal (left), representative (centre) and maximal (right) OFC lesions in Experiment 1.

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    Supplementary Fig. 3

    Reconstructions of the minimal (left), representative (centre) and maximal (right) ACC lesions in Experiment 1.

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    Supplementary Fig. 4

    Reconstructions of the minimal (left), representative (centre) and maximal (right) OFC lesions in Experiment 2.

  5. 5.

    Supplementary Fig. 5

    Reconstructions of the minimal (left), representative (centre) and maximal (right) ACC lesions in Experiment 2.

  6. 6.

    Supplementary Note