Signatures of value comparison in ventral striatum neurons

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Abstract

The ventral striatum (VS), like its cortical afferents, is closely associated with processing of rewards, but the relative contributions of striatal and cortical reward systems remains unclear. Most theories posit distinct roles for these structures, despite their similarities. We compared responses of VS neurons to those of ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) Area 14 neurons, recorded in a risky choice task. Five major response patterns observed in vmPFC were also observed in VS: (1) offer value encoding, (2) value difference encoding, (3) preferential encoding of chosen relative to unchosen value, (4) a correlation between residual variance in responses and choices, and (5) prominent encoding of outcomes. We did observe some differences as well; in particular, preferential encoding of the chosen option was stronger and started earlier in VS than in vmPFC. Nonetheless, the close match between vmPFC and VS suggests that cortex and its striatal targets make overlapping contributions to economic choice.

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Strait, C. E., Sleezer, B. J., & Hayden, B. Y. (2015). Signatures of value comparison in ventral striatum neurons. PLoS Biology, 13(6), 1–22. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1002173

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