Reduced decision bias and more rational decision making following ventromedial prefrontal cortex damage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Sanjay Manohar
  • Daniel Drew
  • Sean James Fallon
  • Trevor T-J Chong
  • Deva S Jeyaretna
  • Ian Baker
  • Masud Husain


Human decisions are susceptible to biases, but establishing causal roles of brain areas has proved to be difficult. Here we studied decision biases in 17 people with unilateral medial prefrontal cortex damage and a rare patient with bilateral ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) lesions. Participants learned to choose which of two options was most likely to win, and then bet money on the outcome. Thus, good performance required not only selecting the best option, but also the amount to bet. Healthy people were biased by their previous bet, as well as by the unchosen option's value. Unilateral medial prefrontal lesions reduced these biases, leading to more rational decisions. Bilateral vmPFC lesions resulted in more strategic betting, again with less bias from the previous trial, paradoxically improving performance overall. Together, the results suggest that vmPFC normally imposes contextual biases, which in healthy people may actually be suboptimal in some situations.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-37
JournalCortex; a journal devoted to the study of the nervous system and behavior
Early online date11 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - May 2021

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