In the natural world, monkeys and humans judge the economic value of numerous competing stimuli by moving their gaze from one object to another, in a rapid series of eye movements. This suggests that the primate brain processes value serially, and that value-coding neurons may be modulated by changes in gaze. To test this hypothesis, we presented monkeys with value-associated visual cues and took the unusual step of allowing unrestricted free viewing while we recorded neurons in the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). By leveraging natural gaze patterns, we found that a large proportion of OFC cells encode gaze location and, that in some cells, value coding is amplified when subjects fixate near the cue. These findings provide the first cellular-level mechanism for previously documented behavioral effects of gaze on valuation and suggest a major role for gaze in neural mechanisms of valuation and decision-making under ecologically realistic conditions.
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