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AbstractThe role of the hippocampus in decision-making is beginning to be more understood. Because of its prospective and inferential functions, we hypothesized that it might be required specifically when decisions involve the evaluation of uncertain values. A group of individuals with autoimmune limbic encephalitis—a condition known to focally affect the hippocampus—were tested on how they evaluate reward against uncertainty compared to reward against another key attribute: physical effort. Across four experiments requiring participants to make trade-offs between reward, uncertainty and effort, patients with acute limbic encephalitis demonstrated blunted sensitivity to reward and effort whenever uncertainty was considered, despite demonstrating intact uncertainty sensitivity. By contrast, the valuation of these two attributes (reward and effort) was intact on uncertainty-free tasks. Reduced sensitivity to changes in reward under uncertainty correlated with the severity of hippocampal damage. Together, these findings provide evidence for a context-sensitive role of the hippocampus in value-based decision-making, apparent specifically under conditions of uncertainty.

Original publication




Journal article


Nature Human Behaviour


Springer Science and Business Media LLC

Publication Date