A common currency for the computation of motivational values in the human striatum
SourceSocial Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 10, 4, (2015), pp. 467-473
Article / Letter to editor
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Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
SubjectRadboudumc 13: Stress-related disorders DCMN: Donders Center for Medical Neuroscience
Reward comparison in the brain is thought to be achieved through the use of a 'common currency', implying that reward value representations are computed on a unique scale in the same brain regions regardless of the reward type. Although such a mechanism has been identified in the ventro-medial prefrontal cortex and ventral striatum in the context of decision-making, it is less clear whether it similarly applies to non-choice situations. To answer this question, we scanned 38 participants with fMRI while they were presented with single cues predicting either monetary or erotic rewards, without the need to make a decision. The ventral striatum was the main brain structure to respond to both cues while showing increasing activity with increasing expected reward intensity. Most importantly, the relative response of the striatum to monetary vs erotic cues was correlated with the relative motivational value of these rewards as inferred from reaction times. Similar correlations were observed in a fronto-parietal network known to be involved in attentional focus and motor readiness. Together, our results suggest that striatal reward value signals not only obey to a common currency mechanism in the absence of choice but may also serve as an input to adjust motivated behaviour accordingly.
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