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The concept of subjective value is central to current neurobiological views of economic decision-making. Much of this work has focused on signals in the ventromedial frontal lobe (VMF) that correlate with the subjective value of a variety of stimuli (e.g., food, monetary gambles), and are thought to support decision-making. However, the neural processes involved in assessing and integrating value information from the attributes of such complex options remain to be defined. Here, we tested the necessary role of VMF in weighting attributes of naturalistic stimuli during value judgments. We asked how distinct attributes of visual artworks influenced the subjective value ratings of subjects with VMF damage, compared to healthy participants and a frontal lobe damaged control group. Subjects with VMF damage were less influenced by the energy (emotion, complexity) and color radiance (warmth, saturation) of the artwork, while they were similar to control groups in considering saliency, balance and concreteness. These dissociations argue that VMF is critical for allowing certain affective content to influence subjective value, while sparing the influence of perceptual or representational information. These distinctions are important for better defining the often-underspecified concept of subjective value and developing more detailed models of the brain mechanisms underlying decision behavior.

Original publication




Journal article


Cereb Cortex

Publication Date





3857 - 3867