Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Emerging evidence suggests that specific cognitive functions localize to different subregions of OFC, but the nature of these functional distinctions remains unclear. One prominent theory, derived from human neuroimaging, proposes that different stimulus valences are processed in separate orbital regions, with medial and lateral OFC processing positive and negative stimuli, respectively. Thus far, neurophysiology data have not supported this theory. We attempted to reconcile these accounts by recording neural activity from the full medial-lateral extent of the orbital surface in monkeys receiving rewards and punishments via gain or loss of secondary reinforcement. We found no convincing evidence for valence selectivity in any orbital region. Instead, we report differences between neurons in central OFC and those on the inferior-lateral orbital convexity, in that they encoded different sources of value information provided by the behavioral task. Neurons in inferior convexity encoded the value of external stimuli, whereas those in OFC encoded value information derived from the structure of the behavioral task. We interpret these results in light of recent theories of OFC function and propose that these distinctions, not valence selectivity, may shed light on a fundamental organizing principle for value processing in orbital cortex.