Multiple Choice Testing

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Science  20 Jun 2008:
Vol. 320, Issue 5883, pp. 1565
DOI: 10.1126/science.320.5883.1565a

When we make economic decisions, for example the purchase of a good or a service, our brain has to perform at least three computations. First, it has to assess the goal value of the good: in economic terms, our maximal willingness to pay. Second, it has to assess the decision value of the good: the goal value minus the unavoidable costs. Third, there is a prediction error, which indicates the deviation from one's expectations of reward; the prediction error is positive when something better than expected happens and negative when the opposite occurs. Unfortunately, these three related quantities are intermingled and are often highly correlated, making it challenging to isolate the neural regions performing these computations.

Hare et al. have attempted to measure goal value, decision value, and prediction error in a single neuroimaging task so that they could dissociate these parameters. They found that ventral striatum activation reflected prediction error and not goal or decision value. However, activity in the medial orbitofrontal cortex and the central orbitofrontal cortex correlated with goal value and decision value, respectively. — PRS

J. Neurosci. 28, 5623 (2008).

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