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Nat Neurosci. 2012 Mar 11;15(5):786-91. doi: 10.1038/nn.3068.

Mapping value based planning and extensively trained choice in the human brain.

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Wellcome Trust Center for Neuroimaging, University College London, London, UK.


Investigations of the underlying mechanisms of choice in humans have focused on learning from prediction errors, leaving the computational structure of value based planning comparatively underexplored. Using behavioral and neuroimaging analyses of a minimax decision task, we found that the computational processes underlying forward planning are expressed in the anterior caudate nucleus as values of individual branching steps in a decision tree. In contrast, values represented in the putamen pertain solely to values learned during extensive training. During actual choice, both striatal areas showed a functional coupling to ventromedial prefrontal cortex, consistent with this region acting as a value comparator. Our findings point toward an architecture of choice in which segregated value systems operate in parallel in the striatum for planning and extensively trained choices, with medial prefrontal cortex integrating their outputs.

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