Where The Brain Makes Decisions
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LONDON — They are life’s perennial questions: Pepsi or Coke, Mac or PC, cremation or burial?
Scientists in the United Kingdom believe they may be close to unraveling some of the brain processes that ultimately dictate the choices we make as consumers.
Using a revolutionary method of imaging the brain, researchers from the Open University and the London Business School say they have identified the brain region that becomes active as the shopper reaches to the supermarket shelf to make their final choice.
If that sounds a frivolous finding, the scientists involved insist their work has serious applications.
“How people use their brains to learn, record and store memory is a fundamental question in contemporary neuroscience,” said Steven Rose, director of the brain and behavior research group and professor of biology at the Open University.
Beyond the local supermarket, Rose and his team believe the findings could go on to show the brain processes behind the conscious decisions people make when it comes to important life choices, such as selecting a partner or career. The research may also one day help manufacturers and marketers shape advertising and branding strategies for their products.
Subjects were taken on an 18-minute virtual tour of a supermarket. During regular pauses in the tour, they were asked to make a choice between different brands and products on the shelves by pressing a button.
Thinking Strategies For Teenage Brain Development
Brain growth and development during these years means that your child will start to:
- think more logically
- think about things more abstractly and understand that issues arent always simple
- pick up more on other peoples emotional cues
- solve complex problems in a logical way, and see problems from different perspectives
- get a better perspective on the future.
You can support the development of your childs thinking with the following strategies:
- Encourage empathy. Talk about feelings yours, your childs and other peoples. Highlight the fact that other people have different perspectives and circumstances. Reinforce that many people can be affected by one action.
- Emphasise the immediate and long-term consequences of actions. The part of the brain responsible for future thinking is still developing. If you talk about how your childs actions influence both the present and the future, you can help the healthy development of your childs prefrontal cortex.
- Try to match your language level to the level of your childs understanding. For important information, you can check your child has understood by asking your child to tell you in their own words what theyve just heard.
- Help your child develop decision-making and problem-solving skills. You and your child could work through a process that involves defining problems, listing options, and considering outcomes that everyone is happy with. Role-modelling these skills is important too.
Reconstructing The Neural Puzzle
At Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown in Lisbon, we have developed a simple task that re-creates the lighter-flicking experience. Here, mice naturally forage for water but drops are delivered sparsely and sometimes, at random, the water resource becomes depleted. This is just like a capricious lighter that produces flames inconsistently, until the reserve of gas suddenly runs low.
In our experiment, we carefully monitor the behaviour of the mice during this task to understand how persistent they are in searching for water, and when they give up to explore somewhere else. Using computational models, we can explain the main aspects of this decision-making process. According to Pietro Vertechi, my colleague who developed the model:
By translating a difficult decision process in a naturalistic setting , we can study cognition in parallel in mice and humans. Just like in the equivalent naturalistic scenario, the animal receives many different stimuli , most of which are irrelevant to solving the task. Mathematical modelling tells us what are the important variables that the subject should be tracking . We can then test what brain regions encode that information and how.
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Aerosol And Other Risks
The aerosol from e-cigarettes is not harmless. It can contain harmful and potentially harmful chemicals, including nicotine ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs flavoring such diacetyl, a chemical linked to a serious lung disease volatile organic compounds such as benzene, which is found in car exhaust and heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead. Scientists are still working to understand more fully the health effects and harmful doses of e-cigarette contents when they are heated and turned into an aerosol, both for active users who inhale from a device and for those who are exposed to the aerosol secondhand. Another risk to consider involves defective e-cigarette batteries that have been known to cause fires and explosions, some of which have resulted in serious injuries. Most of the explosions happened when the e-cigarette batteries were being charged.
What Happens In Your Brain When You Make A Decision
Analysis: there are many common factors in the thousands of decisions we make every day.
Trying to find the ways we process and finalise decisions has been the focus of researchers in many disciplines, including philosophers, economists and psychologists. The different disciplines seem to take different approaches on how to study decision making. Economists seem to focus more on what we should ideally do to make a right choice or decision, while psychologists are more preoccupied with what decisions we actually make.
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From RTÉ Radio 1’s Marian Finucane show, psychologist Owen Fitzpatrick on the psychology of decision making
The role that memory plays in making decisions, and sometimes bad decisions, is very relevant
Many of the decisions we make are based on probability judgements on the possible outcome and whether perceived probabilities prevail over objective probabilities. In which case, it is more possible to make a bad decision. Perceived probabilities which can be affected by recent events and experiences, emotional state and other factors, can lead to more mistakes and bad decisions made, as shown by relevant human experiments some of which were conducted in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
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How Does The Brain Put Decisions In Context Study Finds Unexpected Brain Region At Work
- The Zuckerman Institute at Columbia University
- When crossing the street, which way do you first turn your head to check for oncoming traffic? This decision depends on the context of where you are. A group of scientists has been studying how animals use context when making decisions. And now, their latest findings have tied this ability to an unexpected brain region in mice, previously thought to primarily guide and plan movement.
When crossing the street, which way do you first turn your head to check for oncoming traffic? This decision depends on the context of where you are. A pedestrian in the United States looks to the left for cars, but one in the United Kingdom looks right. A group of scientists at Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute has been studying how animals use context when making decisions. And now, their latest research findings have tied this ability to an unexpected brain region in mice: an area called the anterior lateral motor cortex, or ALM, previously thought to primarily guide and plan movement.
This discovery, published today in Neuron, lends new insight into the brain’s remarkable ability to make decisions. Flexible decision making is a critical tool for making sense of our surroundings it allows us to have different reactions to the same information by taking context into account.
Today’s findings, while focused on the ALM, are important for how they can inform scientists’ larger understanding of brain function as a whole.
How Much Influence Does The Way They Raise Us In Making Decisions
Undoubtedly, another substantial bias in any decision is obedience, since throughout childhood, and even in the labor system, it is taught about the importance of following orders and mandates.
Consequently, the tendency to comply with the received provision is maintained even when not aware of it, and hence the buy now of some notices.
Everything is closely linked to authority, and the influence capacity of reference groups can be observed, where the need to belong makes what is decided an almost impossible norm if it is not carried out.
Therefore, factual dominance is interesting in decisions, especially because of the tendency to cling to the first action without considering all the potentially possible ones and hence the propensity to opt for the first dishes on a menu or the first items exposed in a local.
Now, how does the brain decide which responses to heed? How do you ignore one of the processes for the other? What determines whether fear or desire wins? All these issues have not yet been definitively resolved given the great variety of factors that intercede and influence such complex processing.
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Neural Mechanism For Free
Based on the observation of choice-predictive activity and prestimulus activity and their possible causes, the mechanism shown in Figure 5 can be considered as a prefrontal neural mechanism for free-choice decision-making. As discussed before, the firing properties of prefrontal neurons have distinctive features. First, every prefrontal neuron exhibits irregularly fluctuating spontaneous firing. This irregular fluctuation of spontaneous firing can occur at any time during the task in any given trial. Second, some prefrontal neurons have an intrinsic mechanism that produces a specific firing property. These neurons can maintain an activated state probably for several 100 ms after one or few spikes occur. Therefore, these neurons tend to exhibit a tonic sustained firing pattern with a transient increase in the discharge rate. This property is an important feature of prefrontal neurons that exhibit tonic sustained delay-period activity.
Figure 5. Diagram to explain how choice-predictive activity could contribute to decision-making in free-choice conditions. Figures are reproduced from Mochizuki and Funahashi with permission from the copyright holder.
How Does Emotion Affect The Brain
Emotion has a substantial influence on the cognitive processes in humans, including perception, attention, learning, memory, reasoning, and problem solving. Emotion has a particularly strong influence on attention, especially modulating the selectivity of attention as well as motivating action and behavior.
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The Neuroscience Of Decision Making Explained In 30 Seconds
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Is it possible to explain the neuroscience of decision making in 30 seconds? I had a go as one of my contributions to a new book called 30-Second Brain that’s released in the USA today. Here’s what I wrote:
If 30-seconds is too long for you, here’s the message in 3-seconds:
Feelings provide the basis for human reasonbrain-damaged patients left devoid of emotion struggle to make the most elementary decisions.
Alternatively, if you fancy digging a little deeper, here’s what the book calls my “3-minute brainstorm”:
Although we need emotions to make decisions, their input means were not the cold rational agents that traditional economics assumes us to be. For instance, Daniel Kahneman demonstrated with Amos Tversky that the negative emotional impact of losses is twice as intense as the positive effect of gains, which affects our decision making in predictable ways. For one thing it explains our stubborn reluctance to write off bad investments.
I’m thrilled to have contributed to the book alongside editor and lead author Anil Seth, and co-contributors Tristan Bekinschtein, Daniel Bor, Chris Frith, Ryota Kanai, Michael O’Shea, and Jamie Ward.
Homepage image: Alexander Boden/Flickr
One Decision At A Time
Neuroscience studies of decision making have generally involved estimating the average activity of populations of brain cells across hundreds of trials. But this process overlooks the intricacies of a single decision and the fact that every instance of decision making is slightly different: The myriad factors influencing whether you choose to read this article today will differ from those that would affect you if you were to make the same decision tomorrow.
Cognition is really complex and, when you average across a bunch of trials, you miss important details about how we come to our perceptions and how we make our choices, said Jessica Verhein, MD/PhD student in neuroscience and co-lead author of the paper.
For these experiments, the monkeys were outfitted with a neural implant about the size of a pinky fingernail that reported the activity of 100 to 200 individual neurons every 10 milliseconds as they were shown digital dots parading on a screen. The researchers placed this implant in the dorsal premotor cortex and the primary motor cortex because, in previous research, they found that neural signals from these brain areas convey the animals decisions and their confidence in those decisions.
With this algorithm, we can decode the ultimate decision of the of the monkey way before he moves his finger, let alone his arm, said Peixoto.
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Prefrontal Contribution To Free
Recent neuroimaging studies using human subjects have shown that the prefrontal cortex plays a significant role in spontaneous or self-generated behavior, and internally-driven decision-making . Spontaneous or self-generated actions are internally driven and not specified by external stimuli. Frith et al. used routine tasks, in which each response was specified by an external stimulus, and novel tasks, in which each response needed to be selected by the subject’s willed action, and examined brain activation using PET . They found increased regional blood flow in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex when subjects performed novel tasks in both a speaking-a-word condition and lifting-a-finger condition. Hyder et al. repeated the study done by Frith et al. using fMRI, and confirmed the bilateral activation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in the willed action task , although they observed only left dorsolateral prefrontal activation in the verbal task. Thus, although modality linked activation can be observed, the results obtained by Hyder et al. indicate that the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex plays a significant role in self-generated willed actions.
What Part Of The Brain Controls Common Sense
If you mean by “common sense”the way you appreciate and/or interpret things or situations, then it is most certainly the Cerebrum…
What you describe is a cognitive process, and that is done in the Cerebrum )
Where the Cerebrum is the Bridge of the ship, where the Captain resides, makes decisions and gives the orders, the Cerebellum is the Engine Room: it basically is a highly automated centre where all muscle-coordination is stored and activated.Whether you play guitar, ride a bicycle, tie your shoelaces, etc.: Your Cerebrum cannot be involved in the finer niceties of which finger does what, it doesn’t have the time…It simply gives an instruction to the Cerebellum to get on with it.
The Brain Stem: acts as a gateway for information flowing between the brain and the rest of the body. Is also involved in control of autonome functions such as breathing, blood pressure, heart-rate etc….
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Brief Critical Review Of The Experimental Evidence
In the following, we sum up the present evidence for ICW, contrasting its traditional interpretation with rarely considered alternative explanations of the data. Figure 1 summarizes the main experiments referred to in the text below.
Schematic description of some of the experimental loci discussed in the text. SMA=Supplementary motor area, PFC=Prefrontal cortex, PMC=Premotor cortex, SSC=Somatosensory cortex. L-S1 and LS-2 corresponds to Libets stimulation of the hand, and of the somatosensory brain area, respectively. L-R1 is the recording of RP from SMA of Libet . S-R1 and S-R2 correspond roughly to the brain areas, where Soon et al. detected nerve signals 10 s before the awareness of a willful act. D-S1 and D-S2 correspond roughly to the areas stimulated by Desmurget et al. F-S is the stimulation to the SMA by Fried et al.
The Threshold Stimuli Interpretation
Libets experiments related to free will are, as we have seen, quite inconclusive as a stand-alone result. They are much more convincing as a part of the whole series of experiments that leads up to the hypothesis of backward referral of the conscious experience for a review). The conclusions of the larger set of experiments seem to be that everything that we experience is like a time-delayed television broadcast of a sports event. Everything that we feel, do and want is a display of what the brain felt, did and wanted half a second ago. In that perspective, it is not surprising that the experienced will also is an illusory display.
However, Libet and others used threshold skin stimuli in the retroactive masking experiments. Sensory stimulation at intensity on the threshold to detectability might also require 500 ms to reach consciousness. If this process is interrupted by a suprathreshold signal, it will sometimes fail to register subjectively. This phenomenon is another artifact of subthreshold stimulation and must not be taken as evidence for subjective backward referral.
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A New Study By The Brain And Creativity Institute At Usc Is The Latest In A Series Examining How Music Learning May Enhance Childrens Emotional And Intellectual Development
If the brain is a muscle, then learning to play an instrument and read music is the ultimate exercise.
Two new studies from the Brain and Creativity Institute at USC show that as little as two years of music instruction has multiple benefits. Music training can change both the structure of the brains white matter, which carries signals through the brain, and gray matter, which contains most of the brains neurons that are active in processing information. Music instruction also boosts engagement of brain networks that are responsible for decision-making and the ability to focus attention and inhibit impulses.
The benefits were revealed in studies published recently in scientific journals, including one in the journal Cerebral Cortex.
The results are from an ongoing longitudinal study that began in 2012, when the institute, based at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, established a partnership with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association and Heart of Los Angeles to examine the impact of music instruction on childrens social, emotional and cognitive development.
The neuroscientists have been monitoring the brain development and behavior of children from underserved neighborhoods in Los Angeles, including some learning to play music with the Youth Orchestra Los Angeles at HOLA.
A growing body of research has shown that poverty can greatly disrupt or hinder brain development for children, affecting their performance in school.