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Self-Control in Decision-Making Involves Modulation of the vmPFC Valuation System

Science  01 May 2009:
Vol. 324, Issue 5927, pp. 646-648
DOI: 10.1126/science.1168450

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Abstract

Every day, individuals make dozens of choices between an alternative with higher overall value and a more tempting but ultimately inferior option. Optimal decision-making requires self-control. We propose two hypotheses about the neurobiology of self-control: (i) Goal-directed decisions have their basis in a common value signal encoded in ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), and (ii) exercising self-control involves the modulation of this value signal by dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to monitor brain activity while dieters engaged in real decisions about food consumption. Activity in vmPFC was correlated with goal values regardless of the amount of self-control. It incorporated both taste and health in self-controllers but only taste in non–self-controllers. Activity in DLPFC increased when subjects exercised self-control and correlated with activity in vmPFC.

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