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Results of recent studies point towards a new framework for the neural bases of economic choice. The principles of this framework include the idea that evaluation is limited to a single option within the focus of attention and that we accept or reject that option relative to the entire set of alternatives. Rejection leads attention to a new option, although it can later switch back to a previously rejected one. The option to which a neuron’s firing rate refers is determined dynamically by attention and not stably by labelled lines. Value is always computed relative to the value of rejection. Comparison results not from explicit competition between discrete populations of neurons, but indirectly, as in a horse race, from the fact that the first option whose value crosses a threshold is selected. Consequently, comparison can occur within a single pool of neurons rather than by competition between two or more neuronal populations. The computations that constitute comparison thus occur at multiple levels, including premotor levels, simultaneously (i.e. the brain uses a distributed consensus), and not in discrete stages. This framework suggests a solution to a set of otherwise unresolved neuronal binding problems that result from the need to link options to values, comparisons to actions, and choices to outcomes.
Brain and Neuroscience Advances – SAGE
Published: Apr 13, 2018
Keywords: Neuroeconomics; mutual inhibition; repetition suppression; labelled line
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