The prefrontal cortex (PFC) subserves decision-making and executive control, i.e. the ability to make decisions and to regulate behavior according to external events, mental models of situations, internal drives and subjective preferences. Our overall aim is to understand the functional architecture of the human PFC and computational mechanisms of PFC function. The PFC function is known to operate along three major dimensions, namely the affective, motivational and cognitive control of action subserved by the orbital, medial and lateral sectors of the PFC, respectively. In this project, our specific objectives are to solve the following three open issues of critical theoretical significance: (1) the functional organization of motivational control in the medial prefrontal cortex; (2) the mechanisms that enables the PFC to control the learning of representational sets required for cognitive control; (3) the functional interactions between the medial and lateral prefrontal cortex, i.e. the integration of motivational and cognitive control into a unitary decision-making and control system. We will address these theoretically and methodologically challenging issues by elaborating computational models that integrate learning and control mechanisms, and in relation to these models, by conducting functional magnetic resonance imaging experiments in healthy humans. The project is expected to significantly improve our knowledge of the human PFC function. This basic project has potential major implications especially in medicine, because alterations of the prefrontal function is observed in aging and most neuropsychiatric diseases, as well as in technology for developing artificial and robotics intelligence with human-like adaptive reasoning and decision-making abilities.
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