New Insights on Neural Basis of Choice
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Identifying the neural mechanisms underlying decision-making is a fundamental issue in neuroeconomics, a branch in neuroscience that is still in its infancy. Although choosing among different types of goods and products might be very challenging, our brains are able to compute our choice with a fascinating velocity. A large number of experiments have investigated the neural correlates of choice and identified a number of core structures that are consistently involved in decision-making. These structures include the prefrontal cortex (orbitofrontal cortex, ventromedial and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex), striatum, amygdala, insular cortex and cingulate cortex. However, it is still unclear how those brain regions interact with each other to collectively process choice. In this review, I have searched through the current literature with a focus on the neural basis of choice and described the choice process by dissecting it into three main parts: Valuation, Choice, and Social decision-making. Based on the literature, I found significant evidence to assign brain regions to each part of the decision-making process. As such, the OFC/vmPFC and the striatum/midbrain seem to play a critical role in the valuation of goods, while the amygdala, insula and the anterior cingulate cortex are mainly associated with encoding of costs of choice (action, price, risk, ambiguity etc.) and initiation of emotional response associated with the choice. In addition, the AIC and the ACC are shown to be involved in many aspects of social decision-making, which are in this review limited to empathy and Theory of Mind.