Zero the hero: evidence for involvement of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex in affective bias for free items

Lenglin, V., Wong, S., O’Callaghan, C., Erzinçlioğlu, S., Hornberger, M. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2214-3788, Lebouvier, T., Piguet, O., Bourgeois-Gironde, S. and Bertoux, M. (2023) Zero the hero: evidence for involvement of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex in affective bias for free items. Cortex, 160. pp. 24-42. ISSN 0010-9452

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Abstract

Recent evidence from psycho-economics shows that when the price of an item decreases to the extent that it becomes available for free, one can observe a remarkable increase of subjective utility toward this item. This phenomenon, which is not observed for any other price but zero, has been termed the zero-price effect (ZPE). The ZPE is attributed to an affective heuristic where the positive affect elicited by the free status of an item provides a mental shortcut biasing choice towards that item. Given that the ZPE relies on affective processing, a key role of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) has been proposed, yet neuroscientific studies of the ZPE remain scarce. This study aimed to explore the role of the vmPFC in the ZPE using a novel, within-subject assessment in participants with either an acquired (lesion patients) or degenerative (behavioural-variant frontotemporal dementia patients) lesion of the vmPFC, and age-matched healthy controls. All participants were asked to make a series of choices between pairs of items that varied in price. One choice trial involved an equal decrease of both item prices, such that one of the items was priced zero. In contrast to controls, patients with both vmPFC-lesion and behavioural-variant frontotemporal dementia showed marked reductions in zero-related changes of preference in pairs of gift-cards, but not for pairs of food items. Our findings suggest that affective evaluations driving the ZPE are altered in patients with focal or degenerative damage to the vmPFC. This supports the notion of a key role of the vmPFC in the ZPE and, more generally, the importance of this region in value-based affective decision-making. Our findings also highlight the potential utility of affective heuristic tasks in future clinical assessments.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Funding Information: Recruitment and characterization of individuals with focal brain lesions were made possible by the Cambridge Cognitive Neuroscience Research Panel at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge. We acknowledge the contribution of Prof. Facundo Manes for his involvement in lesion tracing. This work was supported in part by funding to Forefront, a collaborative research group dedicated to the study of frontotemporal dementia and motor neuron disease, from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (NHMRC) program (#1037746 and #1132524) and dementia team (#1095127) grants and the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders Memory Program (#CE110001021). OP is supported by an NHMRC Leadership Fellowship (GNT2008020). SW is supported by an NHMRC Investigator Grant (GNT119 6904). At the time of the study, CO was supported by an NHMRC Neil Hamilton Fairley Fellowship (GNT 1091310) & MB by a Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship from the European Commission and by an Alzheimer Research UK grant. Funding Information: This work was supported in part by funding to Forefront, a collaborative research group dedicated to the study of frontotemporal dementia and motor neuron disease, from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (NHMRC) program ( #1037746 and #1132524 ) and dementia team ( #1095127 ) grants and the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders Memory Program ( #CE110001021 ). OP is supported by an NHMRC Leadership Fellowship ( GNT2008020 ). SW is supported by an NHMRC Investigator Grant ( GNT119 6904 ). At the time of the study, CO was supported by an NHMRC Neil Hamilton Fairley Fellowship ( GNT 1091310 ) & MB by a Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship from the European Commission and by an Alzheimer Research UK grant.
Uncontrolled Keywords: cognitive bias,decision-making,rationality,zero price effect,bvftd,vmpfc,neuropsychology and physiological psychology,experimental and cognitive psychology,cognitive neuroscience ,/dk/atira/pure/subjectarea/asjc/3200/3206
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > Norwich Medical School
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > Research Centres > Norwich Institute for Healthy Aging
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > Research Groups > Mental Health
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > Research Centres > Lifespan Health
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Depositing User: LivePure Connector
Date Deposited: 03 Jan 2023 12:33
Last Modified: 19 Jul 2024 01:27
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/90367
DOI: 10.1016/j.cortex.2022.12.009

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