Both animals and humans often prefer rewarding options that are nearby over those that are distant, but the neural mechanisms underlying this bias are unclear. Here we present evidence that a proximity signal encoded by neurons in the nucleus accumbens drives proximate reward bias by promoting impulsive approach to nearby reward-associated objects. On a novel decision-making task, rats chose the nearer option even when it resulted in greater effort expenditure and delay to reward; therefore, proximate reward bias was unlikely to be caused by effort or delay discounting. The activity of individual neurons in the nucleus accumbens did not consistently encode the reward or effort associated with specific alternatives, suggesting that it does not participate in weighing the values of options. In contrast, proximity encoding was consistent and did not depend on the subsequent choice, implying that accumbens activity drives approach to the nearest rewarding option regardless of its specific associated reward size or effort level.
- Nucleus accumbens
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