Humans and other animals make decisions in order to satisfy their goals. However, it remains unknown how neural circuits compute which of multiple possible goals should be pursued (e.g., when balancing hunger and thirst) and how to combine these signals with estimates of available reward alternatives. Here, humans undergoing fMRI accumulated two distinct assets over a sequence of trials. Financial outcomes depended on the minimum cumulate of either asset, creating a need to maintain “value equilibrium” by redressing any imbalance among the assets. Blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) signals in the rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC) tracked the level of imbalance among goals, whereas the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) signaled the level of redress incurred by a choice rather than the overall amount received. These results suggest that a network of medial frontal brain regions compute a value signal that maintains value equilibrium among internal goals.
Juechems, K., Balaguer, J., Castañón, S. H., Ruz, M., O’Reilly, J. X., & Summerfield, C. (2019). A network for computing value equilibrium in the human medial prefrontal cortex. Neuron, 101(5), 977-987.