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Front Neurosci. 2013 Jun 27;7:112. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2013.00112. Print 2013.

The drive to strive: goal generation based on current needs.

Author information

1
Section on the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, Laboratory of Neuropsychology, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health Bethesda, MD, USA.

Abstract

Hungry animals are influenced by a multitude of different factors when foraging for sustenance. Much of the work on animal foraging has focused on factors relating to the amount of time and energy animals expend searching for and harvesting foods. Models that emphasize such factors have been invaluable in determining when it is beneficial for an animal to search for pastures new. When foraging, however, animals also have to determine how to direct their search. For what food should they forage? There is no point searching for more of a particular food when you are sated from eating it. Here we review work in macaques and humans that has sought to reveal the neural circuits critical for determining the subjective value of different foods and associated objects in our environment and tracking this value over time. There is mounting evidence that a network composed of the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), amygdala, and medial thalamus is critical for linking objects in the environment with food value and adjusting those valuations in real time based on current biological needs. Studies using temporary inactivation methods have revealed that the amygdala and OFC play distinct yet complementary roles in this valuation process. Such a network for determining the subjective value of different foods and, by extension, associated objects, must interact with systems that determine where and for how long to forage. Only by efficiently incorporating these two factors into their decisions will animals be able to achieve maximal fitness.

KEYWORDS:

amygdala; anthropoid primates; macaque; orbitofrontal cortex; prefrontal cortex; reinforcer devaluation; reward; selective satiation

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