Frontal cortex subregions play distinct roles in choices between actions and stimuli.
Rudebeck PH., Behrens TE., Kennerley SW., Baxter MG., Buckley MJ., Walton ME., Rushworth MFS.
The orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) has been implicated in reinforcement-guided decision making, error monitoring, and the reversal of behavior in response to changing circumstances. The anterior cingulate cortex sulcus (ACC(S)), however, has also been implicated in similar aspects of behavior. Dissociating the unique functions of these areas would improve our understanding of the decision-making process. The effect of selective OFC lesions on how monkeys used the history of reinforcement to guide choices of either particular actions or particular stimuli was studied and compared with the effects of ACC(S) lesions. Both lesions disrupted decision making, but their effects were differentially modulated by the dependence on action- or stimulus-value contingencies. OFC lesions caused a deficit in stimulus but not action selection, whereas ACC(S) lesions had the opposite effect, disrupting action but not stimulus selection. Furthermore, OFC lesions that have previously been found to impair decision making when deterministic stimulus-reward contingencies are switched were found to cause a more general learning impairment in more naturalistic situations in which reward was stochastic. Both OFC and ACC(S) are essential for reinforcement-guided decision making rather than just error monitoring or behavioral reversal. The OFC and ACC(S) are both, however, more concerned with learning and making decisions, but their roles in selecting between stimulus and action values are distinct.