Antoinette Nicolle, Miriam C. Klein-Flügge, Laurence T. Hunt, Ivo Vlaev, Raymond J. Dolan, Timothy E.J. Behrens
Neuron, Volume 75, Issue 6, 1114-1121, 20 September 2012
Adaptive success in social animals depends on an ability to infer the likely actions of others. Little is known about the neural computations that underlie this capacity. Here, we show that the brain models the values and choices of others even when these values are currently irrelevant. These modeled choices use the same computations that underlie our own choices, but are resolved in a distinct neighboring medial prefrontal brain region. Crucially, however, when subjects choose on behalf of a partner instead of themselves, these regions exchange their functional roles. Hence, regions that represented values of the subject’s executed choices now represent the values of choices executed on behalf of the partner, and those that previously modeled the partner now model the subject. These data tie together neural computations underlying self-referential and social inference, and in so doing establish a new functional axis characterizing the medial wall of prefrontal cortex.