Not all discounts are created equal: Regional activity and brain networks in temporal and effort discounting

Mohith M. Varma, Shanshan Zhen*, Rongjun Yu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


Reward outcomes associated with costs like time delay and effort investment are generally discounted in decision-making. Standard economic models predict rewards associated with different types of costs are devalued in a similar manner. However, our review of rodent lesion studies indicated partial dissociations between brain regions supporting temporal- and effort-based decision-making. Another debate is whether options involving low and high costs are processed in different brain substrates (dual-system) or in the same regions (single-system). This research addressed these issues using coordinate-based, connectivity-based, and activation network-based meta-analyses to identify overlapping and separable neural systems supporting temporal (39 studies) and effort (20 studies) discounting. Coordinate-based activation likelihood estimation and resting-state connectivity analyses showed immediate-small reward and delayed-large reward choices engaged distinct regions with unique connectivity profiles, but their activation network mapping was found to engage the default mode network. For effort discounting, salience and sensorimotor networks supported low-effort choices, while the frontoparietal network supported high-effort choices. There was little overlap between the temporal and effort networks. Our findings underscore the importance of differentiating different types of costs in decision-making and understanding discounting at both regional and network levels.

Original languageEnglish
Article number120363
Early online date4 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

User-Defined Keywords

  • Activation network analysis
  • Dual-system
  • Effort
  • Temporal discounting


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