How do we decide what courses of action are valuable to us? How do we update these action plans when the value of available options changes? One part of the frontal lobe, the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) has long been associated with this type of flexible behavior and concepts such as behavioral inhibition, self-control, and emotional regulation. These ideas emphasize the suppression of behaviors and emotions, but OFC's affirmative functions have remained enigmatic. This talk will cover a series of experiments that has advanced our understanding of this prefrontal area and how its functions are shaped through interaction with subcortical structures such as the amygdala. Our findings challenge theories emphasizing behavioral inhibition as OFC’s fundamental function. Instead, they indicate that OFC provides predictions about specific outcomes associated with stimuli, choices and actions, especially their moment-to-moment value based on current internal states. OFC function thereby encompasses a broad representation or model of an individual’s sensory milieu and potential actions, along with their relationship to likely behavioral outcomes, a function that is vital for flexible decision-making.
Reward, Valuation and the Prefrontal Cortex: from Emotin to Decision making