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J Neurosci. 2010 Jan 13;30(2):583-90. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4089-09.2010.

Value computations in ventral medial prefrontal cortex during charitable decision making incorporate input from regions involved in social cognition.

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Computation and Neural Systems and Humanities and Social Science Divisions, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California 91125-7700, USA.


Little is known about the neural networks supporting value computation during complex social decisions. We investigated this question using functional magnetic resonance imaging while subjects made donations to different charities. We found that the blood oxygenation level-dependent signal in ventral medial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) correlated with the subjective value of voluntary donations. Furthermore, the region of the VMPFC identified showed considerable overlap with regions that have been shown to encode for the value of basic rewards at the time of choice, suggesting that it might serve as a common valuation system during decision making. In addition, functional connectivity analyses indicated that the value signal in VMPFC might integrate inputs from networks, including the anterior insula and posterior superior temporal cortex, that are thought to be involved in social cognition.

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