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PLoS Biol. 2017 Nov 15;15(11):e2003091. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.2003091. eCollection 2017 Nov.

Correlates of decisional dynamics in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex.

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Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and Center for Visual Sciences, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York, United States of America.
Department of Neuroscience and Center for Magnetic Resonance Research, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States of America.


We hypothesized that during binary economic choice, decision makers use the first option they attend as a default to which they compare the second. To test this idea, we recorded activity of neurons in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) of macaques choosing between gambles presented asynchronously. We find that ensemble encoding of the value of the first offer includes both choice-dependent and choice-independent aspects, as if reflecting a partial decision. That is, its responses are neither entirely pre- nor post-decisional. In contrast, coding of the value of the second offer is entirely decision dependent (i.e., post-decisional). This result holds even when offer-value encodings are compared within the same time period. Additionally, we see no evidence for 2 pools of neurons linked to the 2 offers; instead, all comparison appears to occur within a single functionally homogenous pool of task-selective neurons. These observations suggest that economic choices reflect a context-dependent evaluation of attended options. Moreover, they raise the possibility that value representations reflect, to some extent, a tentative commitment to a choice.

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