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Forming and comparing subjective values (SVs) of choice options is a critical stage of decision-making. Previous studies have highlighted a complex network of brain regions involved in this process by utilising a diverse range of tasks and stimuli, varying in economic, hedonic and sensory qualities. However, the heterogeneity of tasks and sensory modalities may systematically confound the set of regions mediating the SVs of goods. To identify and delineate the core brain valuation system involved in processing SV, we utilised the Becker-DeGroot-Marschak (BDM) auction, an incentivised demand-revealing mechanism which quantifies SV through the economic metric of willingness-to-pay (WTP). A coordinate-based activation likelihood estimation meta-analysis analysed twenty-four fMRI studies employing a BDM task (731 participants; 190 foci). Using an additional contrast analysis, we also investigated whether this encoding of SV would be invariant to the concurrency of auction task and fMRI recordings. A fail-safe number analysis was conducted to explore potential publication bias. WTP positively correlated with fMRI-BOLD activations in the left ventromedial prefrontal cortex with a sub-cluster extending into anterior cingulate cortex, bilateral ventral striatum, right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, right inferior frontal gyrus, and right anterior insula. Contrast analysis identified preferential engagement of the mentalizing-related structures in response to concurrent scanning. Together, our findings offer succinct empirical support for the core structures participating in the formation of SV, separate from the hedonic aspects of reward and evaluated in terms of WTP using BDM, and show the selective involvement of inhibition-related brain structures during active valuation.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date