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Fluctuations in the homeostatic neural circuitry influence consistency in choices between cultural goods

By Damiano Azzalini, Anne Buot, S. Palminteri, Catherine Tallon-Baudry

Posted 19 Sep 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/776047

Preferences for primary goods, such as food items, are variable and depend on current physiological state. Decisions on cultural goods, entailing no direct physiological consequence, rely on the same neural underpinnings of valuation and choice than primary goods. Here, we test whether subjective preferences for cultural goods inherit a functional link with the neural circuitry monitoring physiological variables. Using magnetoencephalography in human participants choosing between two movies, we measured heartbeat-evoked responses (HERs), which index the cortical monitoring of cardiac contractions. Trial-by-trial fluctuations in HERs, measured before option presentation, influenced the subsequent neural encoding of subjective value in ventro-medial prefrontal cortex - a region involved both in valuation and cardiac monitoring. The neural interaction between HERs and value encoding enhanced trial-by-trial choice precision and predicted inter-individual differences in choice consistency. The enhanced monitoring of physiological variables thus supports more stable representations of subjective, self-related cognitive information.

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