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J Neurophysiol. 2005 Oct;94(4):2457-71. Epub 2005 Jun 15.

Neuronal activity in primate orbitofrontal cortex reflects the value of time.

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  • 1Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, Mellon Institute, University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. mroes001@umaryland.edu


Neurons in monkey orbitofrontal cortex (OF) are known to respond to reward-predicting cues with a strength that depends on the value of the predicted reward as determined 1) by intrinsic attributes including size and quality and 2) by extrinsic factors including the monkey's state of satiation and awareness of what other rewards are currently available. We pose here the question whether another extrinsic factor critical to determining reward value-the delay expected to elapse before delivery-influences neuronal activity in OF. To answer this question, we recorded from OF neurons while monkeys performed a memory-guided saccade task in which a cue presented early in each trial predicted whether the delay before the monkey could respond and receive a reward of fixed size would be short or long. OF neurons tended to fire more strongly in response to a cue predicting a short delay. The tendency to fire more strongly in anticipation of a short delay was correlated across neurons with the tendency to fire more strongly before a large reward. We conclude that neuronal activity in OF represents the time-discounted value of the expected reward.

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