Orbitofrontal cortex and the computation of economic value

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Economic choice is the behavior observed when individuals select one of many available options solely based on subjective preferences. Behavioral evidence suggests that economic choice entails two mental processes: values are first assigned to the available options, and a decision is subsequently made between these values. Numerous reports show that lesions to the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) lead to choice deficits in various domains, and imaging studies indicate that the OFC activates when people make choices. In this chapter, we review evidence from single cell recordings linking the OFC more specifically to valuation. Individual neurons in the OFC encode the value that monkeys assign to different beverages when they choose between them. These neurons encode economic value as a subjective quantity. Most importantly, neurons in the OFC encode economic value per se, not as a modulation of sensory or motor processes. This trait distinguishes the value representation in the OFC from that observed in other brain areas. That OFC neurons encode economic value independently of visuomotor contingencies suggests that economic choice is fundamentally a choice between goods (good-based model) rather than a choice between actions (action-based model).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLinking affect to Action
Subtitle of host publicationCritical Contributions to the Orbitofrontal Cortex
PublisherBlackwell Publishing Inc.
Number of pages22
ISBN (Print)9781573316835
StatePublished - Dec 2007

Publication series

NameAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
ISSN (Print)0077-8923
ISSN (Electronic)1749-6632


  • Decision making
  • Economic choice
  • Monkey
  • Neuroeconomics
  • Subjective value


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