Orbitofrontal Cortex: A Neural Circuit for Economic Decisions

Camillo Padoa-Schioppa, Katherine E. Conen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

164 Scopus citations


Economic choice behavior entails the computation and comparison of subjective values. A central contribution of neuroeconomics has been to show that subjective values are represented explicitly at the neuronal level. With this result at hand, the field has increasingly focused on the difficult question of where in the brain and how exactly subjective values are compared to make a decision. Here, we review a broad range of experimental and theoretical results suggesting that good-based decisions are generated in a neural circuit within the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). The main lines of evidence supporting this proposal include the fact that goal-directed behavior is specifically disrupted by OFC lesions, the fact that different groups of neurons in this area encode the input and the output of the decision process, the fact that activity fluctuations in each of these cell groups correlate with choice variability, and the fact that these groups of neurons are computationally sufficient to generate decisions. Results from other brain regions are consistent with the idea that good-based decisions take place in OFC and indicate that value signals inform a variety of mental functions. We also contrast the present proposal with other leading models for the neural mechanisms of economic decisions. Finally, we indicate open questions and suggest possible directions for future research. Padoa-Schioppa and Conen review recent advances on the neuronal mechanisms underlying economic choices. They propose that good-based decisions are formed in a neural circuit within the orbitofrontal cortex.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)736-754
Number of pages19
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 15 2017


  • attentional drift-diffusion model
  • decision neuroscience
  • distributed-consensus model
  • economic choice
  • goal-directed behavior
  • good-based model
  • neuroeconomics
  • prefrontal cortex
  • subjective value
  • value-based decision


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