Corticostriatal Circuits Encode the Subjective Value of Perceived Control

Kainan S. Wang, Mauricio R. Delgado

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations


The ability to perceive and exercise control over an outcome is both desirable and beneficial to our well-being. It has been shown that animals and humans alike exhibit behavioral bias towards seeking control and that such bias recruits the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and striatum. Yet, this bias remains to be quantitatively captured and studied neurally. Here, we employed a behavioral task to measure the preference for control and characterize its neural underpinnings. Participants made a series of binary choices between having control and no-control over a game for monetary reward. The mere presence of the control option evoked activity in the ventral striatum. Importantly, we manipulated the expected value (EV) of each choice pair to extract the pairing where participants were equally likely to choose either option. The difference in EV between the options at this point of equivalence was inferred as the subjective value of control. Strikingly, perceiving control inflated the reward value of the associated option by 30% and this value inflation was tracked by the vmPFC. Altogether, these results capture the subjective value of perceived control inherent in decision making and highlight the role of corticostriatal circuitry in the perception of control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5049-5060
Number of pages12
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


  • corticostriatal circuitry
  • perceived control
  • striatum
  • subjective value
  • vmPFC

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