Identity-specific coding of future rewards in the human orbitofrontal cortex

James D. Howard, Jay A. Gottfried, Philippe N. Tobler, Thorsten Kahnt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

162 Scopus citations


Nervous systems must encode information about the identity of expected outcomes to make adaptive decisions. However, the neural mechanisms underlying identity-specific value signaling remain poorly understood. By manipulating the value and identity of appetizing food odors in a pattern-based imaging paradigm of human classical conditioning, we were able to identify dissociable predictive representations of identity-specific reward in orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and identity-general reward in ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). Reward-related functional coupling between OFC and olfactory (piriform) cortex and between vmPFC and amygdala revealed parallel pathways that support identity-specific and -general predictive signaling. The demonstration of identity-specific value representations in OFC highlights a role for this region in model-based behavior and reveals mechanisms by which appetitive behavior can go awry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5195-5200
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number16
StatePublished - Apr 21 2015


  • Associative learning
  • Multivoxel pattern analysis
  • Olfaction
  • Reward value
  • Ventromedial prefrontal cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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