Neural mechanisms of economic commitment in the human medial prefrontal cortex.
Tsetsos K., Wyart V., Shorkey SP., Summerfield C.
Neurobiologists have studied decisions by offering successive, independent choices between goods or gambles. However, choices often have lasting consequences, as when investing in a house or choosing a partner. Here, humans decided whether to commit (by acceptance or rejection) to prospects that provided sustained financial return. BOLD signals in the rostral medial prefrontal cortex (rmPFC) encoded stimulus value only when acceptance or rejection was deferred into the future, suggesting a role in integrating value signals over time. By contrast, the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) encoded stimulus value only when participants rejected (or deferred accepting) a prospect. dACC BOLD signals reflected two decision biases-to defer commitments to later, and to weight potential losses more heavily than gains-that (paradoxically) maximised reward in this task. These findings offer fresh insights into the pressures that shape economic decisions, and the computation of value in the medial prefrontal cortex.