Recent theories suggest that reward-based choice reflects competition between value signals in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). We tested this idea by recording vmPFC neurons while macaques performed a gambling task with asynchronous offer presentation. We found that neuronal activity shows four patterns consistent with selection via mutual inhibition: (1) correlated tuning for probability and reward size, suggesting that vmPFC carries an integrated value signal; (2) anti-correlated tuning curves for the two options, suggesting mutual inhibition; (3) neurons rapidly come to signal the value of the chosen offer, suggesting the circuit serves to produce a choice; and (4) after regressing out the effects of option values, firing rates still could predict choice-a choice probability signal. In addition, neurons signaled gamble outcomes, suggesting that vmPFC contributes to both monitoring and choice processes. These data suggest a possible mechanism for reward-based choice and endorse the centrality of vmPFC in that process.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by a R00 (DA027718), a NARSAD Young Investigator Reward from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, and a Sloan Foundation fellowship to B.Y.H. We thank Tim Behrens, Sarah Heilbronner, and John Pearson for useful discussions and Aaron Roth and Marc Mancarella for assistance in data collection.