Optimal coding and neuronal adaptation in economic decisions

Aldo Rustichini, Katherine E. Conen, Xinying Cai, Camillo Padoa-Schioppa

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47 Scopus citations


During economic decisions, offer value cells in orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) encode the values of offered goods. Furthermore, their tuning functions adapt to the range of values available in any given context. A fundamental and open question is whether range adaptation is behaviorally advantageous. Here we present a theory of optimal coding for economic decisions. We propose that the representation of offer values is optimal if it ensures maximal expected payoff. In this framework, we examine offer value cells in non-human primates. We show that their responses are quasi-linear even when optimal tuning functions are highly non-linear. Most importantly, we demonstrate that for linear tuning functions range adaptation maximizes the expected payoff. Thus value coding in OFC is functionally rigid (linear tuning) but parametrically plastic (range adaptation with optimal gain). Importantly, the benefit of range adaptation outweighs the cost of functional rigidity. While generally suboptimal, linear tuning may facilitate transitive choices.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1208
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017


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