Description: Generalizing experiences to guide decision making in novel situations is a hallmark of flexible behavior. It has been hypothesized such flexibility depends on a cognitive map of an environment or task, but directly linking the two has proven elusive. Here, we find that discretely sampled abstract relationships between entities in an unseen two-dimensional (2-D) social hierarchy are reconstructed into a unitary 2-D cognitive map in the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex. We further show that humans utilize a grid-like code in several brain regions, including entorhinal cortex and medial prefrontal cortex, for inferred direct trajectories between entities in the reconstructed abstract space during discrete decisions. Moreover, these neural grid-like codes in the entorhinal cortex are associated with neural decision value computations in the medial prefrontal cortex and temporoparietal junction area during choice. Collectively, these findings show that grid-like codes are used by the human brain to infer novel solutions, even in abstract and discrete problems, and suggest a general mechanism underpinning flexible decision making and generalization.
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