How is effort integrated in value-based decision-making? Animal models and human neuroimaging studies primarily linked the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and ventral striatum (VS) to the integration of effort in valuation. Other studies demonstrated the role of these regions in invigoration to effort demands, thus it is hard to separate the neural activity linked to anticipation and subjective valuation from actual performance. Here, we studied the neural basis of effort valuation separated from performance. We scanned forty participants with fMRI, while they were asked to accept or reject monetary gambles that could be resolved with future performance of a familiar grip force effort challenge or a fixed risk prospect. Participants’ willingness to accept prospective gambles reflected discounting of values by physical effort and risk. Choice-locked neural activation in contralateral primary sensory cortex and ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) tracked the magnitude of prospective effort the participants faced, independent of choice time and monetary stakes. Estimates of subjective value discounted by effort were found to be tracked by the activation of a network of regions common to valuation under risk and delay, including vmPFC, VS and sensorimotor cortex. Together, our findings show separate neural mechanisms underlying prospective effort and actual effort performance.
ASJC Scopus subject areas