The influence of context valence in the neural coding of monetary outcomes

Michael G. Hardin, Daniel S. Pine, Monique Ernst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The emotional significance of objects and events depends on the context in which they occur. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we examined the modulation of neural responses to monetary outcomes while subjects performed a decision-making task in a positive and a negative economic context. Neural responses indicated a relative regional specialization in the neural coding of outcome valence and followed three distinct patterns. The nucleus accumbens (NAc) and orbital frontal cortex (OFC) appeared to code the most extreme outcome in each context, with a potentiated response for favorable outcomes by a positive context. The amygdala and insula appeared to also code highly salient outcomes, but showed a potentiated response to unfavorable outcomes occurring in a negative context. The medial prefrontal cortex (medPFC), on the other hand, only coded favorable responses occurring in a positive context. Moreover, the medPFC showed large inter-individual variability when responding to outcomes in a negative context, suggesting that its role in a negative context may depend on a number of individual factors. The results of this work provide evidence of complex valence-based regional dissociations that are influenced by contextual factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-257
Number of pages9
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 15 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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