Distinguishing expected negative outcomes from preparatory control in the human orbitofrontal cortex

Stefan Ursu, Kristi A. Clark, V. Andrew Stenger, Cameron S Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The human orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) plays a critical role in adapting behavior according to the context provided by expected outcomes of actions. However, several aspects of this function are still poorly understood. In particular, it is unclear to what degree any subdivisions of the OFC are specifically engaged when negatively valenced outcomes are expected, and to what extent such areas might be involved in preparatory active control of behavior. We examined these issues in two complementary functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies in which we simultaneously and independently manipulated monetary incentives for correct performance, and demands for active preparation of cognitive control. In both experiments, preparation for performance was associated with lateral PFC activity in response to high incentives, regardless of their valence, as well as in response to increased task demands. In contrast, areas of the OFC centered around the lateral orbital sulcus responded maximally to negatively perceived prospects, even when such prospects were associated with decreases in preparatory cognitive control. These results provide direct support for theoretical models which posit that the OFC contributes to behavioral regulation by representing the value of anticipated outcomes, but does not implement active control aimed at avoiding or pursuing outcomes. Furthermore, they provide additional converging evidence that the lateral OFC is involved in representing specifically the affective impact of anticipated negative outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)110-119
Number of pages10
JournalBrain Research
StatePublished - Aug 28 2008


  • Cognitive control
  • Incentives
  • Inhibition
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Reward

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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