Balkanizing the primate orbitofrontal cortex: Distinct subregions for comparing and contrasting values

Peter H. Rudebeck, Elisabeth A. Murray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


The primate orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) is often treated as a single entity, but architectonic and connectional neuroanatomy indicate that it has distinguishable parts. Nevertheless, few studies have attempted to dissociate the functions of its subregions. Here we review findings from recent neuropsychological and neurophysiological studies that do so. The lateral OFC seems to be important for learning, representing, and updating specific object-reward associations. The medial OFC seems to be important for value comparisons and choosing among objects on that basis. Rather than viewing this dissociation of function in terms of learning versus choosing, however, we suggest that it reflects the distinction between contrasts and comparisons: differences versus similarities. Making use of high-dimensional representations that arise from the convergence of several sensory modalities, the lateral OFC encodes contrasts among outcomes. The medial OFC reduces these contrasting representations of value to a single dimension, a common currency, in order to compare alternative choices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Macaque
  • Orbitofrontal cortex
  • Reversal learning
  • Reward


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