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Neuron. 2016 Jun 15;90(6):1299-1311. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2016.04.045. Epub 2016 Jun 2.

Orbitofrontal Cortex Value Signals Depend on Fixation Location during Free Viewing.

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Department of Neurobiology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA. Electronic address:
Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA.
Department of Neurobiology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA; Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


In the natural world, monkeys and humans judge the economic value of numerous competing stimuli by moving their gaze from one object to another, in a rapid series of eye movements. This suggests that the primate brain processes value serially, and that value-coding neurons may be modulated by changes in gaze. To test this hypothesis, we presented monkeys with value-associated visual cues and took the unusual step of allowing unrestricted free viewing while we recorded neurons in the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). By leveraging natural gaze patterns, we found that a large proportion of OFC cells encode gaze location and, that in some cells, value coding is amplified when subjects fixate near the cue. These findings provide the first cellular-level mechanism for previously documented behavioral effects of gaze on valuation and suggest a major role for gaze in neural mechanisms of valuation and decision-making under ecologically realistic conditions.

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