Cingulate and orbitofrontal contributions to valuing knowns and unknowns in a changeable world
The world that we and other animals inhabit is frequently stochastic, uncertain, and changeable and it is imperative that our brains are able to evaluate and keep track of varying contingencies. While behavioural ecologists have long researched how animals operate in such natural environments, investigations into aspects of higher cognition in the psychology laboratory have tended to focus on controlled, static situations in which the experimenter determines that some responses are clearly more correct than others. Over the last few years, there has been increasing interest in the roles of two parts of the frontal lobe — the sulcal region of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (ACCs) and orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) — when outcome information indicates a need for a change in behaviour. This chapter reviews some recent lesion and functional imaging studies that have compared the contributions of these regions in guiding beneficial choice behaviour in uncertain, changeable situations. In particular, it demonstrates that in such task environments, both regions are not simply important for detecting mistakes and updating behaviour, but instead play dissociable roles in the continuous assessment of outcome value in terms of its relationship with predictors in the world, with different courses of action, and the usefulness of information to guide subsequent decision making.
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