Perceptual and Mnemonic Decision-Making
To make a decision the nervous system integrates different sources of information and weighs costs and benefits to select an appropriate action towards a goal. Humans manifest the most complex form of this behavior by incorporating a large array of information, from physical senses to future consequences to moral values, in their decisions. Although decisions can vary greatly in complexity, several studies suggest that they are governed by similar principles that allow integration of information and commitment to a choice based on some quantum satis of belief.
This decision-making process is believed to depend on interaction of several cortical and subcortical areas that collectively represent sensory information, retrieve relevant memories, and plan and execute desired actions. However, the underlying neural mechanisms are not adequately understood at cellular and network levels. The long-term goal of my lab is to understand these mechanisms.
Our research strategy is to record and manipulate neural responses in various brain areas while subjects engage in moderately complex decision-making tasks. The techniques that we currently use include single and multiple electrode recording, functional magnetic resonance imaging, and selective stimulation or inactivation of small neural clusters. These techniques combined with behavioral and computational studies provide a powerful set of tools to answer our questions. We hope that an accurate understanding of the neurophysiology of decision-making will lead to a better understanding of the disorders of perception and ideation, and will ultimately enable us to develop new medical interventions for patients suffering from mental and cognitive disorders.