The neural representation of prospective choice during spatial planning and decisions

Raphael Kaplan, John King, Raphael Koster, William D. Penny, Neil Burgess, Karl J. Friston

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48 Citations (Scopus)
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We are remarkably adept at inferring the consequences of our actions, yet the neuronal mechanisms that allow us to plan a sequence of novel choices remain unclear. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate how the human brain plans the shortest path to a goal in novel mazes with one (shallow maze) or two (deep maze) choice points. We observed two distinct anterior prefrontal responses to demanding choices at the second choice point: one in rostrodorsal medial prefrontal cortex (rd-mPFC)/superior frontal gyrus (SFG) that was also sensitive to (deactivated by) demanding initial choices and another in lateral frontopolar cortex (lFPC), which was only engaged by demanding choices at the second choice point. Furthermore, we identified hippocampal responses during planning that correlated with subsequent choice accuracy and response time, particularly in mazes affording sequential choices. Psychophysiological interaction (PPI) analyses showed that coupling between the hippocampus and rd-mPFC increases during sequential (deep versus shallow) planning and is higher before correct versus incorrect choices. In short, using a naturalistic spatial planning paradigm, we reveal how the human brain represents sequential choices during planning without extensive training. Our data highlight a network centred on the cortical midline and hippocampus that allows us to make prospective choices while maintaining initial choices during planning in novel environments.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1002588
JournalPLoS Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jan 2017


  • Adult
  • Brain
  • Brain Mapping
  • Choice Behavior
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe
  • Hippocampus
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Prefrontal Cortex
  • Psychophysiology
  • Reaction Time
  • Space Perception
  • Young Adult

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