Neuroimaging studies of decision-making have generally related neural activity to objective measures (such as reward magnitude, probability or delay), despite choice preferences being subjective. However, economic theories posit that decision-makers behave as though different options have different subjective values. Here we use functional magnetic resonance imaging to show that neural activity in several brain regions—particularly the ventral striatum, medial prefrontal cortex and posterior cingulate cortex—tracks the revealed subjective value of delayed monetary rewards. This similarity provides unambiguous evidence that the subjective value of potential rewards is explicitly represented in the human brain.
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We thank A. Bisin, A. Caplin, M. Grantner, D. Heeger and I. Levy for their comments on earlier versions of this paper. This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (F32-MH75544 to J.W.K. and R01-NS054775 to P.W.G.), the McDonnell Foundation (to P.W.G.) and the Seaver Foundation.
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Kable, J., Glimcher, P. The neural correlates of subjective value during intertemporal choice. Nat Neurosci 10, 1625–1633 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1038/nn2007
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