The neural basis of decision making

Department of Neuroscience, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104-6074, USA.
Annual Review of Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 22.66). 02/2007; 30:535-74. DOI: 10.1146/annurev.neuro.29.051605.113038
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The study of decision making spans such varied fields as neuroscience, psychology, economics, statistics, political science, and computer science. Despite this diversity of applications, most decisions share common elements including deliberation and commitment. Here we evaluate recent progress in understanding how these basic elements of decision formation are implemented in the brain. We focus on simple decisions that can be studied in the laboratory but emphasize general principles likely to extend to other settings.

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    • "Electrophysiological recordings revealed that choice confidence is an important and potentially novel factor in modulating neural activity in multiple regions of the brain. Of particular interest, one of these studies (Kiani and Shadlen, 2009) found that the modulation of neuronal firing rates in lateral intraparietal area (LIP) by a DV that characterized the amount of information in a visual stimulus in many previous studies (e.g., Shadlen and Newsome, 2001; Gold and Shadlen, 2007) could in part be captured by the degree of a monkey's confidence in a choice, i.e., whether a monkey is sure or unsure to make a choice (Kiani and Shadlen, 2009). Furthermore, a regression model suggested that the modulation of LIP firing rates due to the choice confidence could not be entirely explained by the modulation of LIP firing rates due to the DV. "
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    ABSTRACT: When we make a decision, we experience a degree of confidence that our choice may lead to a desirable outcome. Recent studies in animals have probed the subjective aspects of the choice confidence using confidence-reporting tasks. These studies showed that estimates of the choice confidence substantially modulate neural activity in multiple regions of the brain. Building on these findings, we investigated the neural representation of the confidence in a choice in humans who explicitly reported the confidence in their choice. Subjects performed a perceptual decision task in which they decided between choosing a button press or a saccade while we recorded EEG activity. Following each choice, subjects indicated whether they were sure or unsure about the choice. We found that alpha activity strongly encodes a subject's confidence level in a forthcoming button press choice. The neural effect of the subjects' confidence was independent of the reaction time and independent of the sensory input modeled as a decision variable. Furthermore, the effect is not due to a general cognitive state, such as reward expectation, because the effect was specifically observed during button press choices and not during saccade choices. The neural effect of the confidence in the ensuing button press choice was strong enough that we could predict, from independent single trial neural signals, whether a subject was going to be sure or unsure of an ensuing button press choice. In sum, alpha activity in human cortex provides a window into the commitment to make a hand movement.
    Frontiers in Neuroscience 08/2015; 9. DOI:10.3389/fnins.2015.00243 · 3.70 Impact Factor
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    • "response rates) are modelled as coming from a normal distribution whose mean is the mean rate of responding, and whose variance is the variance in this rate. The rate can be understood to be proportionate to the rate at which evidence is accumulated towards a decision bound (Bogacz et al., 2006; Gold & Shadlen, 2007). The special case of perfect efficiency (e = 1) is equivalent to context invariance, but as in the extended race model context invariance is not assumed. "
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    ABSTRACT: In adults, decisions based on multisensory information can be faster and/or more accurate than those relying on a single sense. However, this finding varies significantly across development. Here we studied speeded responding to audio-visual targets, a key multisensory function whose development remains unclear. We found that when judging the locations of targets, children aged 4 to 12 years and adults had faster and less variable response times given auditory and visual information together compared with either alone. Comparison of response time distributions with model predictions indicated that children at all ages were integrating (pooling) sensory information to make decisions but that both the overall speed and the efficiency of sensory integration improved with age. The evidence for pooling comes from comparison with the predictions of Miller's seminal 'race model', as well as with a major recent extension of this model and a comparable 'pooling' (coactivation) model. The findings and analyses can reconcile results from previous audio-visual studies, in which infants showed speed gains exceeding race model predictions in a spatial orienting task (Neil et al., 2006) but children below 7 years did not in speeded reaction time tasks (e.g. Barutchu et al., 2009). Our results provide new evidence for early and sustained abilities to integrate visual and auditory signals for spatial localization from a young age. © 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
    Developmental Science 07/2015; DOI:10.1111/desc.12327 · 3.89 Impact Factor
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    • "Although anodal tDCS does not induce neuronal firing, it modulates neuronal activity, which can subsequently lead to bias in decision-making in a similar manner. Combined with previous findings of overlapping areas responsible for perceptual and motor decisions (Romo & de Lafuente, 2013; Andersen & Cui, 2009; Gold & Shadlen, 2007), it is possible that stimulation of the PMC and surrounding area simultaneously influenced perceptual decisions. "
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    ABSTRACT: One of the multiple interacting systems involved in the selection and execution of voluntary actions is the primary motor cortex (PMC). We aimed to investigate whether the transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) of this area can modulate hand choice. A perceptual decision-making task was administered. Participants were asked to classify rectangles with different height-to-width ratios into horizontal and vertical rectangles using their right and left index fingers while their PMC was stimulated either bilaterally or unilaterally. Two experiments were conducted with different stimulation conditions: the first experiment (n = 12) had only one stimulation condition (bilateral stimulation), and the second experiment (n = 45) had three stimulation conditions (bilateral, anodal unilateral, and cathodal unilateral stimulations). The second experiment was designed to confirm the results of the first experiment and to further investigate the effects of anodal and cathodal stimulations alone in the observed effects. Each participant took part in two sessions. The laterality of stimulation was reversed over the two sessions. Our results showed that anodal stimulation of the PMC biases participants' responses toward using the contralateral hand whereas cathodal stimulation biases responses toward the ipsilateral hand. Brain stimulation also modulated the RT of the left hand in all stimulation conditions: Responses were faster when the response bias was in favor of the left hand and slower when the response bias was against it. We propose two possible explanations for these findings: the perceptual bias account (bottom-up effects of stimulation on perception) and the motor-choice bias account (top-down modulation of the decision-making system by facilitation of response in one hand over the other). We conclude that motor responses and the choice of hand can be modulated using tDCS.
    Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 07/2015; DOI:10.1162/jocn_a_00848 · 4.69 Impact Factor
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