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Hum Brain Mapp. 2019 Mar;40(4):1049-1061. doi: 10.1002/hbm.24379. Epub 2018 Dec 28.

Transforming brain signals related to value evaluation and self-control into behavioral choices.

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Hefei National Laboratory for Physical Sciences at the Microscale and School of Life Sciences, University of Science & Technology of China, Hefei, China.
Shanghai Key Laboratory of Psychotic Disorders, Shanghai Mental Health Center, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai 200030, China.
Department of Statistics and Finance, School of Management, University of Science & Technology of China, Hefei, Anhui 230027, China.
Provincial institute of stereotactic neurosurgery.
First affiliated hospital of the University of Science and Technology of China.
Center of Medical Physics and Technology, and AnHui Province Key Laboratory of Medical Physics and Technology, Hefei Institutes of Physical Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 230031, Hefei, Anhui, China.
Department of Addictive Behaviour and Addiction Medicine, Central Institute of Mental Health, Medical Faculty Mannheim / Heidelberg University, Square J5, D-68159 Mannheim, Germany.
School of Humanities and Social Science, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, Anhui, China.
Hefei Medical Research Center on Alcohol Addiction, Anhui Mental Health Center, Hefei, Anhui, China.
Academy of Psychology and Behavior, Tianjin Normal University, Tianjin, China.


The processes involved in value evaluation and self-control are critical when making behavioral choices. However, the evidence linking these two types of processes to behavioral choices in intertemporal decision-making remains elusive. As the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), striatum, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) have been associated with these two processes, we focused on these three regions. We employed functional magnetic resonance imaging during a delayed discounting task (DDT) using a relatively large sample size, three independent samples. We evaluated how much information about a specific choice could be decoded from local patterns in each brain area using multivoxel pattern analysis (MVPA). To investigate the relationship between the dlPFC and vmPFC/striatum regions, we performed a psychophysiological interaction (PPI) analysis. In Experiment I, we found that the vmPFC and dlPFC, but not the striatum, could determine choices in healthy participants. Furthermore, we found that the dlPFC showed significant functional connectivity with the vmPFC, but not the striatum, when making decisions. These results could be replicated in Experiment II with an independent sample of healthy participants. In Experiment III, the choice-decoding accuracy in the vmPFC and dlPFC was lower in patients with addiction (smokers and participants with Internet gaming disorder) than in healthy participants, and decoding accuracy in the dlPFC was related to impulsivity in addicts. Taken together, our findings may provide neural evidence supporting the hypothesis that value evaluation and self-control processes both guide the intertemporal choices, and might provide potential neural targets for the diagnosis and treatment of impulsivity-related brain disorders.


functional magnetic resonance imaging; intertemporal decision-making; multivoxel pattern analysis; self-control; valuation


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