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Sunday, August 21, 2022

Medial and orbital frontal cortex in decision-making and flexible behavior

Klein-Flügge, M. C., Bongioanni, A., & 
Rushworth, M. F. (2022).


The medial frontal cortex and adjacent orbitofrontal cortex have been the focus of investigations of decision-making, behavioral flexibility, and social behavior. We review studies conducted in humans, macaques, and rodents and argue that several regions with different functional roles can be identified in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, perigenual anterior cingulate cortex, anterior medial frontal cortex, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and medial and lateral parts of the orbitofrontal cortex. There is increasing evidence that the manner in which these areas represent the value of the environment and specific choices is different from subcortical brain regions and more complex than previously thought. Although activity in some regions reflects distributions of reward and opportunities across the environment, in other cases, activity reflects the structural relationships between features of the environment that animals can use to infer what decision to take even if they have not encountered identical opportunities in the past.


Neural systems that represent the value of the environment exist in many vertebrates. An extended subcortical circuit spanning the striatum, midbrain, and brainstem nuclei of mammals corresponds to these ancient systems. In addition, however, mammals possess several frontal cortical regions concerned with guidance of decision-making and adaptive, flexible behavior. Although these frontal systems interact extensively with these subcortical circuits, they make specific contributions to behavior and also influence behavior via other cortical routes. Some areas such as the ACC, which is present in a broad range of mammals, represent the distribution of opportunities in an environment over space and time, whereas other brain regions such as amFC and dmPFC have roles in representing structural associations and causal links between environmental features, including aspects of the social environment (Figure 8). Although the origins of these areas and their functions are traceable to rodents, they are especially prominent in primates. They make it possible not just to select choices on the basis of past experience of identical situations, but to make inferences to guide decisions in new scenarios.