The neural correlates of intertemporal decision-making: Contributions of subjective value, stimulus type, and trait impulsivity

Chandra Sekhar Sripada, Richard Gonzalez, K. Luan Phan, Israel Liberzon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


Making choices between payoffs available at different points in time reliably engages a decision-making brain circuit that includes medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), and ventral striatum (VS). Previous neuroimaging studies produced differing accounts of the functions of these regions, including that these regions: (1) are sensitive to the value of rewards discounted by a function of delay ('subjective value'); (2) are differentially sensitive to the availability of an immediate reward; and (3) are implicated in impulsive decision-making. In this event-related fMRI study of 20 volunteers, these hypotheses were investigated simultaneously using a delay discounting task in which magnitude of rewards and stimulus type, i.e., the presence or absence of an immediate option, were independently varied, and in which participants' trait impulsivity was assessed with the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale. Results showed that mPFC, PCC, and VS are sensitive to the subjective value of rewards, whereas mPFC and PCC, but not VS, are sensitive to the presence of an immediate reward in the choice option. Moderation by individual differences in trait impulsivity was specific to the mPFC. Conjunction analysis showed significant overlap in mPFC and PCC for the main effects of subjective value and stimulus type, indicating these regions may serve multiple distinct roles during intertemporal decision-making. These findings significantly advance our understanding of the specificity and overlap of functions subserved by different regions involved in intertemporal decision-making, and help to reconcile conflicting accounts in the literature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1637-1648
Number of pages12
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2011


  • Decision-making
  • FMRI
  • Impulsivity
  • Individual-differences
  • Intertemporal choice
  • Reward
  • Temporal discounting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


Dive into the research topics of 'The neural correlates of intertemporal decision-making: Contributions of subjective value, stimulus type, and trait impulsivity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this