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A self-related neural mechanism accounting for choice consistency in preference-based decisions

By D. Azzalini, A. Buot, Stefano Palminteri, Catherine Tallon-Baudry

Posted 19 Sep 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/776047

Forrest Gump or Matrix? Choosing which movie you prefer is a subjective decision that entails self-reflection, a feature unaccounted for by known neural mechanisms of valuation and choice. Here, we show that subjective valuation is functionally coupled to the neural circuitry monitoring physiological variables, i.e. the simplest biological form of self-reflection. Human participants chose which movie they preferred, or performed a control objective discrimination that did not require self-reflection. Using magnetoencephalograpghy, we measured heartbeat-evoked responses (HERs) before option presentation, and retrieved the decision network during choice. In subjective preference-based decisions only, HERs modulated the encoding of chosen value, in ventro-medial prefrontal cortex, and this neural interaction increased choice precision. Results could not be trivially explained by changes in cardiac activity or in arousal. The neural monitoring of physiological variables thus supports subjective valuation based on self-reflection and improves the consistency of decisions based on subjective values. Highlights

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