Conference Program


Mar
12
4:45pm 4:45pm

The Neuroeconomics of Emotion and Decisions

By Elizabeth A. Phelps, NYU

Elizabeth A. Phelps
Institute for the Interdisciplinary Study of Decision Making, NYU

One popular theory of emotion and decision-making suggests that there are competing systems of emotion and reason that may drive choices.  In contrast to this view, recent research in affective neuroscience has highlighted a modulatory role for emotion's influence on a range of cognitive functions, including perception, attention and memory.  In this talk, I will outline how emotion's influence on decision-making may also best be captured as a modulation of the value computation.  Specifically, I will present data suggesting that the emotional reaction to decision options or outcomes is linked to choice behavior, and how modifying emotional responses may change the choice.  Finally, I will discuss the overlap in the neural systems of emotion and decision-making with circuits typically implicated in affective learning and emotion regulation.

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Mar
12
3:30pm 3:30pm

Neuroeconomics of Complex Social Behavior

By Michael L. Platt, Duke

Michael L. Platt
Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Duke University

We are the most charitable species on the planet—often giving to others we don’t even know. We are also among the most competitive—misleading, lying, and cheating to further our own ends. How the brain shapes these choices remains poorly understood. I will describe recent work using a new model of social decision making in which pairs of monkeys interact through a computer device while we either monitor or manipulate their brains. We found that monkeys favor choices that reward another monkey, particularly if he is more familiar or subordinate, rather than choosing to reward no one. Oxytocin—a hormone implicated in social bonding—increases both prosocial choices and attention to the other monkey. We also found that prosocial choices selectively activated neurons in the medial frontal cortex, an area implicated in empathy in humans. By contrast, when monkeys played a competitive game against each other, they rapidly developed unpredictable behaviors that served to mislead the other monkey. We found that deceptive tactics selectively activated a specific population of cells in the lateral frontal cortex. Inactivating these neurons impaired deceptive planning. Together, these discoveries define part of a network of brain areas specialized for complex social behavior and cognition.

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Mar
12
1:45pm 1:45pm

Orienting Fast and Slow: When Does the Tectum Relay Decisions and When Is It the Decider?

By Michael Dorris, ION, CAS

Michael Dorris
Laboratory of Decision-Making, Institute of Neuroscience, Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences

The vertebrate tectum is critical for orienting the eyes, head, body and specialized organs towards targets of value. In fish, frogs and birds the tectum is often the largest brain structure. In primates, tectal size is greatly reduced but it remains a critical orienting structure largely by integrating a wide variety of sensory and cognitive inputs from the evolutionarily recent neo-cortex. Does the evolutionarily old tectum still decide where to orient or does it simply enact decisions already completed by the neo-cortex? We are currently examining three conditions in which the tectum may be heavily involved in the decision-making process.

1) Urgency – Under time pressure, the tectum may choose fast (albeit inaccurate!) responses before deliberation is finished in the cortex.
2) Nash Equilibrium – The cortex biases competition within the tectum towards higher valued options, however, during mixed-strategy interactions, noise within the tectum may result in stochastic choices.
3) Individual Item from a Particular Good – Once the most valued good is identified by cortex, the particular item from that good may be selected by tectal mechanisms.
Together, cortical structures may provide primates with increased flexibility in decision-making while primitive tectal circuitry provides speed and automaticity.

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Mar
12
10:45am10:45am

Prefrontal Contributions to the Good-to-action Transformation in Economic Choice

By Xinying Cai, NYU Shanghai

Xinying Cai
NYU Shanghai

Economic decision-making entails a series of mental processes. Multiple determinants on which each option can vary are integrated into a subjective value. The decision is then made by comparing values. Previous work indicates that economic decisions can be made independently of the visuo-motor contingencies of the choice task (in the space of goods). However, the neuronal mechanisms through which the choice outcome (the chosen good) is transformed into a suitable action plan remain poorly understood. In my talk, I will show that neurons in the lateral prefrontal cortex reflect the early stages of this good-to-action transformation. In my experiment, monkeys chose between different juices. The experimental design dissociated in space and time the presentation of the offers and the saccade targets associated with them. I recorded from the orbital, ventrolateral and dorsolateral prefrontal as well as the dorsal anterior cingulate cortices (OFC, LPFCv, LPFCd and ACCd respectively). Prior to target presentation, neurons in both LPFCv and LPFCd encoded the choice outcome in goods space while after target presentation they gradually came to encode the location of the targets and the upcoming action plan, reflecting the good-to-action transformation. In addition, consistent with the anatomical connectivity, all spatial and action-related signals emerged earlier in LPFCv than that in LPFCd.

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Mar
12
9:55am 9:55am

Computational Neuroeconomics: Bridging Levels of Understanding

By Xiao-Jing Wang, NYU Shanghai

Xiao-Jing Wang
NYU Shanghai

Many challenging questions about how the brain makes choices require an integrative approach across different levels of investigation, from single neurons to circuits to behavior. Computational modeling provides a powerful tool in this endeavor. Here I will summarize recent work on biological mechanisms and neural network models of choice behavior, and offer an unifying local circuit framework for both perceptual decision and value-based choice behavior in terms of a recurrent neural circuit model endowed with reward-dependent synaptic plasticity. Finally, I will discuss future research directions that aim at understanding learning adaptive choice behavior in a large system of multiple brain modules.

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Mar
12
9:25am 9:25am

Decision Making: From the Neural Basis of Our Preferences to the Neural Mechanisms of Our Errors

By Paul Glimcher, NYU

Paul Glimcher
Institute for the Interdisciplinary Study of Decision Making, NYU

 

There is now compelling evidence that neuroeconomists have identified the biological signature of preference. Brain activity in the ventral striatum and the medial prefrontal cortex appears to be the physical instantiation of the mental process of liking and disliking for everything from consumer goods to leisure activities. Glimcher will present evidence that activity in these brain areas can now be used econometrically to predict choice. Standard neurobiological models of network convergence can be combined with these measurements to take these insights a step further – allowing both for the accurate prediction of new classes of choice errors at a behavioral level and for the development of choice procedures to minimize those errors. These are examples of how economics and neuroscience are being drawn together so we come to understand the nature of human decision-making at the levels of economics, psychology and neuroscience.

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