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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

May 2010, Vol. 22, No. 5, Pages 1069-1082
(doi: 10.1162/jocn.2009.21231)
© 2009 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Neural Systems Underlying Decisions about Affective Odors
Article PDF (500.92 KB)

Decision-making about affective value may occur after the reward value of a stimulus is represented and may involve different brain areas to those involved in decision-making about the physical properties of stimuli, such as intensity. In an fMRI study, we delivered two odors separated by a delay, with instructions on different trials to decide which odor was more pleasant or more intense or to rate the pleasantness and intensity of the second odor without making a decision. The fMRI signals in the medial prefrontal cortex area 10 (medial PFC) and in regions to which it projects, including the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and insula, were higher when decisions were being made compared with ratings, implicating these regions in decision-making. Decision-making about affective value was related to larger signals in the dorsal part of medial area 10 and the agranular insula, whereas decisions about intensity were related to larger activations in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dorsolateral PFC), ventral premotor cortex, and anterior insula. For comparison, the mid orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) had activations related not to decision-making but to subjective pleasantness ratings, providing a continuous representation of affective value. In contrast, areas such as medial area 10 and the ACC are implicated in reaching a decision in which a binary outcome is produced.