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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2007 Dec;1121:193-215. Epub 2007 Sep 13.

Neural encoding in the orbitofrontal cortex related to goal-directed behavior.

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Johns Hopkins University, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA.


Research using laboratory animals, alongside clinical studies of human patients, support a role for the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) in adaptive decision-making and goal-directed behavior. The functions of OFC neurons within this domain have been studied extensively in both rats and primates. Electrophysiological recordings during performance of relevant behavioral tasks provide a coherent portrait of OFC encoding that is reward related. OFC neurons represent associative relationships between events, encoding information that is predictive of outcome value. That encoding can be understood as a neural basis for deficits seen after OFC damage in the use of outcome expectancy to guide performance. There is less agreement, however, on whether OFC itself plays a role in translating information on outcome expectancy into the actual guidance of overt behavioral responding. New findings indicate that rat OFC neurons prominently encode additional task-related information and events related to goal-directed action. This encoding can occur in populations of OFC neurons that are independent of the OFC neurons representing reward value. The significance of this emerging evidence may require studies that address the larger scale network through which OFC integrates expected outcome information with behavioral control.

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