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Activity in anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) has been linked both to commitment to a course of action, even when it is associated with costs, and to exploring or searching for alternative courses of action. Here we review evidence that this is due to the presence of multiple signals in ACC reflecting the updating of beliefs and internal models of the environment and encoding aspects of choice value, including the average value of choices afforded by the environment ('search value'). We contrast this evidence with the influential view that ACC activity is better described as reflecting task difficulty. A consideration of cortical neural network properties explains why ACC may carry such signals and also exhibit sensitivity to task difficulty.

Original publication




Journal article


Curr Opin Neurobiol

Publication Date





36 - 43