Chapter

The Somatic Marker Hypothesis and Its Neural Basis: Using Past Experiences to Forecast the Future in Decision Making

Antoine Bechara

in Predictions in the Brain

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780195395518
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199897230 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195395518.003.0048
The Somatic Marker Hypothesis and Its Neural Basis: Using Past Experiences to Forecast the Future in Decision Making

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This chapter proposes a neural framework for how some of the factors affecting decision-making may be implemented in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). Information conveying delay in the future (or distance in the past) depends on the integrity of more anterior vmPFC cortices (i.e., frontal pole) in order for a delayed outcome to exert an influence on behavior. If those anterior regions (frontal pole) are damaged, decision-making shifts towards shorter time horizons (i.e., the decision-making process becomes more influenced by more immediate, or more recent, outcomes). As the damage extends to the more posterior vmPFC regions, the shortening of this time horizon (or high recency) becomes more severe. Humans have developed greater capacity to decide according to outcomes that are far more distant in the future (or past). This capacity places even normal individuals at a disadvantage because nearer events possess stronger somatic states, so that they tend to bias decisions in their favor. However, damage to the vmPFC tends to curb this capacity to a much greater extent.

Keywords: decision-making; brain; ventromedial prefrontal cortex; delayed outcome; time horizons

Chapter.  7359 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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