We are constantly faced with choices and decisions to make – some are small (eg. what do I want to eat for lunch?) while others are more significant and have longer-term consequences (eg. which job offer should I accept?). The cognitive process of selecting a particular option among a set of alternatives that are expected to produce different outcomes is referred to as decision-making. It is a process that often occurs in the face of uncertainty and multiple external and internal factors (eg. environmental conditions, emotional status, and past experiences) influence it.
Experimental paradigms can be designed to probe decisions between two or more alternative choices. When performed in conjunction with ECoG recordings from multiple brain areas, such an approach can yield valuable insights into network mechanisms underlying decision-making. For instance, before a particular choice is made, specific areas in the cortex fire with coordinated patterns of neural activity that can be used to predict what an individual will do. Knowledge about how neuronal activity can be “decoded” to predict choices can ultimately be applied to help paralyzed and locked-in patients. A better understanding about neural circuits involved in decision-making is also expected to yield insight into a number of neuropsychiatric disorders in which decision-making is aberrant or maladaptive (eg. schizophrenia and depression).
Faculty: Hakwan Lau, Bijan Pesaran