Shih-Wei Wu, Mauricio R. Delgado, and Laurence T. Maloney
The Journal of Neuroscience, 15 June 2011, 31(24): 8822-8831
In decision under risk, people choose between lotteries that contain a list of potential outcomes paired with their probabilities of occurrence. We previously developed a method for translating such lotteries to mathematically equivalent “motor lotteries.” The probability of each outcome in a motor lottery is determined by the subject's noise in executing a movement. In this study, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging in humans to compare the neural correlates of monetary outcome and probability in classical lottery tasks in which information about probability was explicitly communicated to the subjects and in mathematically equivalent motor lottery tasks in which probability was implicit in the subjects' own motor noise. We found that activity in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and the posterior cingulate cortex quantitatively represent the subjective utility of monetary outcome in both tasks. For probability, we found that the mPFC significantly tracked the distortion of such information in both tasks. Specifically, activity in mPFC represents probability information but not the physical properties of the stimuli correlated with this information. Together, the results demonstrate that mPFC represents probability from two distinct forms of decision under risk.