Two correlates of outcome processing in the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) have been proposed in the literature: One hypothesis suggests that the lateral/medial division relates to representation of outcome valence (negative vs. positive), and the other suggests that the medial OFC maintains steady stimulus-outcome associations, whereas the lateral OFC represents changing (unsteady) outcomes to prepare for response shifts. These two hypotheses were contrasted by comparing the original with the inverted version of the Iowa Gambling Task in an event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment. Results showed (1) that (caudo) lateral OFC was indeed sensitive to the steadiness of the outcomes and not merely to outcome valence and (2) that the original and the inverted tasks, although both designed to measure sensitivity for future outcomes, were not equivalent as they enacted different behaviors and brain activation patterns. Results are interpreted in terms of Kahneman and Tversky's prospect theory suggesting that cognitions and decisions are biased differentially when probabilistic future rewards are weighed against consistent punishments relative to the opposite scenario [Kahneman, D., & Tversky, A. Choices, values, and frames. American Psychologist, 39, 341–350, 1984]. Specialized processing of unsteady rewards (involving caudolateral OFC) may have developed during evolution in support of goal-related thinking, prospective planning, and problem solving.

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