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Trends Cogn Sci. 2014 Apr;18(4):194-202. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2014.01.003. Epub 2014 Feb 25.

Action versus valence in decision making.

Author information

  • 1Aging Research Centre, Karolinska Institute, SE-11330 Stockholm, Sweden; Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, Institute of Neurology, University College London, London WC1N 3BG, UK. Electronic address: marc.guitart-masip@ki.se.
  • 2Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, London WC1N 3AR, UK; Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg, Institute of Cognitive Neurology and Dementia Research, D-39120 Magdeburg, Germany; German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, D-39120 Magdeburg, Germany.
  • 3Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, Institute of Neurology, University College London, London WC1N 3BG, UK.
  • 4Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit, University College London, London W1CN 3AR, UK.


The selection of actions, and the vigor with which they are executed, are influenced by the affective valence of predicted outcomes. This interaction between action and valence significantly influences appropriate and inappropriate choices and is implicated in the expression of psychiatric and neurological abnormalities, including impulsivity and addiction. We review a series of recent human behavioral, neuroimaging, and pharmacological studies whose key design feature is an orthogonal manipulation of action and valence. These studies find that the interaction between the two is subject to the critical influence of dopamine. They also challenge existing views that neural representations in the striatum focus on valence, showing instead a dominance of the anticipation of action.

Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Pavlovian; action; dopamine; instrumental; striatum; value

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