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Structured event complexes in the medial prefrontal cortex support counterfactual representations for future planning

By Aron K. Barbey, Frank Krueger and Jordan Grafman


We propose that counterfactual representations for reasoning about the past or predicting the future depend on structured event complexes (SECs) in the human prefrontal cortex (PFC; ‘What would happen if X were performed in the past or enacted in the future?’). We identify three major categories of counterfactual thought (concerning action versus inaction, the self versus other and upward versus downward thinking) and propose that each form of inference recruits SEC representations in distinct regions of the medial PFC. We develop a process model of the regulatory functions these representations serve and draw conclusions about the importance of SECs for explaining the past and predicting the future

Topics: Research Article
Publisher: The Royal Society
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Provided by: PubMed Central
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