Research Seminar Series: How the Brain Integrates Costs and Benefits During Decision Making

Professor Christian Fiebach, Goethe-University of Frankfurt, Wednesday, 25.01.2012, 12.15pm - 1.30pm. Seminar Room of the Marketing Department (RuW 1.201)

Abstract: When we make decisions, the benefits of an option often need to
be weighed against accompanying costs. Little is known, however,
about the neural systems underlying such cost-benefit computations.
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging and choice
modeling, we show that decision making based on cost-benefit
comparison can be explained as a stochastic accumulation of cost-
benefit difference. Model-driven functional MRI shows that ventromedial
and left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex compare costs and
benefits by computing the difference between neural signatures of
anticipated benefits and costs from the ventral striatum and amygdala,
respectively. Moreover, changes in blood oxygen level dependent
(BOLD) signal in the bilateral middle intraparietal sulcus reflect
the accumulation of the difference signal fromventromedial prefrontal
cortex. In sum, we show that a neurophysiological mechanism
previously established for perceptual decision making, that is, the
difference-based accumulation of evidence, is fundamental also in
value-based decisions. The brain, thus, weighs costs against benefits
by combining neural benefit and cost signals into a single, differencebased
neural representation of net value, which is accumulated over
time until the individual decides to accept or reject an option.