Link to the University of Pittsburgh Homepage
Link to the University Library System Homepage Link to the Contact Us Form

Examining Theories of Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex Function

Wheeler, Elizabeth Zabriskie (2006) Examining Theories of Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex Function. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

Primary Text

Download (745kB) | Preview


The ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) is an intriguing brain region which sends output to and receives input from memory, emotion and reward related structures such as the amygdala, hippocampus, and caudate nucleus. Humans with lesions to the VMPFC on the surface seem to function normally and most have normal intelligence. However, in high-level tasks blending affect and decision-making, they are often highly impaired. This thesis concerns three behavioral experiments of patients with VMPFC damage which contrast and examine hypotheses of VMPFC function. In Experiment 1, the hypothesis that the VMPFC is involved in representing social knowledge was tested with more rigorous methods and a non social control task. Results did not support a specific role of the VMPFC in social knowledge. In Experiments 2 & 3, the hypothesis that VMPFC is involved in rapid reversal of stimulus-reinforcer associations was examined in detail. A gambling task and a probabilistic learning task helped discriminate punishment versus reward processing. Experiment 2 revealed normal performance of VMPFC patients in a rewards-only reversal task, in contrast to performance on previous gambling tasks with both reversal and punishment. Experiment 3 added to this evidence for a special function in punishment processing by examining learning from punishment versus learning from reward. Results revealed deficits in punishment learning, but not reward learning, after damage to the VMPFC. In conclusion, these experiments suggest a special role for the VMPFC in punishment processing, especially when a change in stimulus choice is indicated.


Social Networking:
Share |


Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Wheeler, Elizabeth
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairSchneider, Walterwws@pitt.eduWWS
Committee MemberSiegle, Greggsiegle@pitt.eduGSIEGLE
Committee MemberFiez, Juliefiez@pitt.eduFIEZ
Committee MemberFellows, Lesley
Committee MemberKlein, Williamwmklein@pitt.eduWMKLEIN
Date: 21 June 2006
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 20 April 2006
Approval Date: 21 June 2006
Submission Date: 24 April 2006
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: emotion; feedback; orbitofrontal; patient; prefrontal; punishment; reversal; reward; social; ventromedial
Other ID:, etd-04242006-135021
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:41
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:42


Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item