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Contributors:
  1. Cendri Hutcherson

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Description: Cognitive regulation of decision making represents a crucial tool for altering behavior to fit momentary goals (e.g. eat healthy, be kinder). Are some people generally more successful using cognitive regulation or does it depend on the choice domain? Why? Do regulatory goals act on centralized, integrative value computations regardless of domain, or do they operate by changing value representations at the level of targeted choice-relevant attributes (e.g. a food’s taste and health in dietary choices)? To address these questions, we used an innovative combination of behavioral computational modeling and multivariate decoding of fMRI responses to identify the neural loci of regulation-related shifts in value representations across distinct regulatory goals and choice domains (dietary choice, altruistic choice). Surprisingly, we found little evidence that regulatory goals altered integrative value representations in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC), which represented all choice-relevant attributes across domains, regardless of regulatory goals. Instead, regulatory effects converged in a region of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). This area flexibly encoded goal-consistent values and predicted regulatory success for the majority of choice-relevant attributes in both dietary and social contexts, using unique neural codes for each attribute. However, we also identified an important domain-specific exception: goal-dependent encoding and prediction of regulatory success for prosocial attributes localized to the precuneus and temporo-parietal junction, rather than the DLPFC. Taken together, our results suggest that cognitive regulation of decision making operated by changing specific attribute representations rather than integrated values. Evidence of both domain-general and domain-specific neural loci for flexible attribute representation also reveals important divisions of labor in adaptive cognitive control of decision making, explaining when and why regulatory success generalizes (or doesn’t) across contexts and domains.

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Task Instructions

Tusche, Hutcherson & Hutcherson

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Results - Univariate

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Behavior Overview

Tusche & Hutcherson

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