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The human orbitofrontal cortex is an important brain region for the processing of rewards and punishments, which is a prerequisite for the complex and flexible emotional and social behaviour which contributes to the evolutionary success of humans. Yet much remains to be discovered about the functions of this key brain region, and new evidence from functional neuroimaging and clinical neuropsychology is affording new insights into the different functions of the human orbitofrontal cortex. We review the neuroanatomical and neuropsychological literature on the human orbitofrontal cortex, and propose two distinct trends of neural activity based on a meta-analysis of neuroimaging studies. One is a mediolateral distinction, whereby medial orbitofrontal cortex activity is related to monitoring the reward value of many different reinforcers, whereas lateral orbitofrontal cortex activity is related to the evaluation of punishers which may lead to a change in ongoing behaviour. The second is a posterior-anterior distinction with more complex or abstract reinforcers (such as monetary gain and loss) represented more anteriorly in the orbitofrontal cortex than simpler reinforcers such as taste or pain. Finally, we propose new neuroimaging methods for obtaining further evidence on the localisation of function in the human orbitofrontal cortex.

Original publication

DOI

10.1016/j.pneurobio.2004.03.006

Type

Journal article

Journal

Prog Neurobiol

Publication Date

04/2004

Volume

72

Pages

341 - 372

Keywords

Brain Mapping, Diagnostic Imaging, Frontal Lobe, Humans, Meta-Analysis as Topic, Neural Pathways, Neuroanatomy, Neurophysiology, Neuropsychology, Reinforcement (Psychology)