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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2011 Dec;1239:138-48. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2011.06268.x.

The value of identity: olfactory notes on orbitofrontal cortex function.

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Department of Neurology, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois 60611, USA.


Neuroscientific research has emphatically promoted the idea that the key function of the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) is to encode value. Associative learning studies indicate that OFC representations of stimulus cues reflect the predictive value of expected outcomes. Neuroeconomic studies suggest that the OFC distills abstract representations of value from discrete commodities to optimize choice. Although value-based models provide good explanatory power for many different findings, these models are typically disconnected from the very stimuli and commodities giving rise to those value representations. Little provision is made, either theoretically or empirically, for the necessary cooperative role of object identity, without which value becomes orphaned from its source. As a step toward remediating the value of identity, this review provides a focused olfactory survey of OFC research, including new work from our lab, to highlight the elemental involvement of this region in stimulus-specific predictive coding of both perceptual outcomes and expected values.

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