• Functional and neural mechanisms of intertemporal choice
  • Sellitto, Manuela <1983>


  • M-PSI/02 Psicobiologia e psicologia fisiologica


  • People are daily faced with intertemporal choice, i.e., choices differing in the timing of their consequences, frequently preferring smaller-sooner rewards over larger-delayed ones, reflecting temporal discounting of the value of future outcomes. This dissertation addresses two main goals. New evidence about the neural bases of intertemporal choice is provided. Following the disruption of either the medial orbitofrontal cortex or the insula, the willingness to wait for larger-delayed outcomes is affected in odd directions, suggesting the causal involvement of these areas in regulating the value computation of rewards available with different timings. These findings were also supported by a reported imaging study. Moreover, this dissertation provides new evidence about how temporal discounting can be modulated at a behavioral level through different manipulations, e.g., allowing individuals to think about the distant time, pairing rewards with aversive events, or changing their perceived spatial position. A relationship between intertemporal choice, moral judgements and aging is also discussed. All these findings link together to support a unitary neural model of temporal discounting according to which signals coming from several cortical (i.e., medial orbitofrontal cortex, insula) and subcortical regions (i.e., amygdala, ventral striatum) are integrated to represent the subjective value of both earlier and later rewards, under the top-down regulation of dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. The present findings also support the idea that the process of outcome evaluation is strictly related to the ability to pre-experience and envision future events through self-projection, the anticipation of visceral feelings associated with receiving rewards, and the psychological distance from rewards. Furthermore, taking into account the emotions and the state of arousal at the time of decision seems necessary to understand impulsivity associated with preferring smaller-sooner goods in place of larger-later goods.


  • 2013-07-18


  • Doctoral Thesis
  • PeerReviewed


  • application/pdf



Sellitto, Manuela (2013) Functional and neural mechanisms of intertemporal choice, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Neuroscienze cognitive , 25 Ciclo. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsdottorato/5777.