Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Avoiding Punishment is its Own Reward...

Work by Kim et al employs functional imaging to suggest a similar role for the human medial orbitofrontal cortex in processing the receipt of a reward and the successful avoidance of an aversive outcome.

Figure: Medial OFC showing a significant increase in activity after avoidance of an aversive outcome as well as after obtaining reward. No other brain areas showed significant effects at p < 0.001.

These results are compatible with the possibility that activity in the medial OFC during avoidance reflects an intrinsic reward signal that serves to reinforce avoidance behavior. Activity in the medial OFC not only increased after avoiding an aversive outcome or receiving reward, but also decreased after failing to obtain a reward or receiving an aversive outcome. Consequently, this region shows a fully opponent response profile to rewarding and aversive outcomes and their omission.

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