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Retrospective Valuation of Experienced Outcome Encoded in Distinct Reward Representations in the Anterior Insula and Amygdala.

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Our ability to evaluate an experience retrospectively is important because it allows us to summarize its total value, and this summary value can then later be used as a guide in deciding whether the experience merits repeating, or whether instead it should rather be avoided. However, when an experience unfolds over time, humans tend to assign disproportionate weight to the later part of the experience, and this can lead to poor choice in repeating, or avoiding experience. Using model-based computational analyses of fMRI recordings in 27 male volunteers, we show that the human brain encodes the summary value of an extended sequence of outcomes in two distinct reward representations. We find that the overall experienced value is encoded accurately in the amygdala, but its merit is excessively marked down by disincentive anterior insula activity if the sequence of experienced outcomes declines temporarily. Moreover, the statistical strength of this neural code can separate efficient decision-makers from suboptimal decision-makers. Optimal decision-makers encode overall value more strongly, and suboptimal decision-makers encode the disincentive markdown (DM) more strongly. The separate neural implementation of the two distinct reward representations confirms that suboptimal choice for temporally extended outcomes can be the result of robust neural representation of a displeasing aspect of the experience such as temporary decline.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT One of the numerous foibles that prompt us to make poor decisions is known as the "Banker's fallacy," the tendency to focus on short-term growth at the expense of long-term value. This effect leads to unwarranted preference for happy endings. Here, we show that the anterior insula in the human brain marks down the overall value of an experience as it unfolds over time if the experience entails a sequence of predominantly negative temporal contrasts. By contrast, the amygdala encodes overall value accurately. These results provide neural indices for the dichotomy of decision utility and experienced utility popularized as Thinking fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman.



amygdala, anterior insula, decision utility, experienced utility, neuroeconomics, suboptimal choice, Adult, Amygdala, Brain Mapping, Cerebral Cortex, Conditioning, Operant, Decision Making, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Photic Stimulation, Psychomotor Performance, Reinforcement Schedule, Reward, Young Adult

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J Neurosci

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Society for Neuroscience
Wellcome Trust (095495/Z/11/Z)
Wellcome Trust (204811/Z/16/Z)
European Research Council (293549)