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Research Areas

The Neural Basis of Learning Behavior

How do past experiences affect and guide our future behavior? What are the neurocomputational mechanisms the brain uses to learn, and what associations are formed in the brain? Are there different systems for mediating learning of different types of information, and if so, how do these systems interact with one another to produce complex behavior? How do learning mechanisms work in social contexts as well as in nonsocial ones?

Relevant faculty: Colin Camerer, John O'Doherty, Antonio Rangel, Shin Shimojo

The Neural Basis of Decision Making

What brain processes mediate how we establish the value or utility of objects in the environment? How are behavioral preferences established over items in both nonsocial and social domains? How do we take into account information about subjective value, risk and uncertainty, and timing, among other variables, when making a decision between multiple options? What kinds of algorithms and computations underpin the decision process itself? What brain areas are involved, and how are these processes implemented at the neural level? How are decisions made in more-complex social environments, such as in a financial market or in politics?

Relevant faculty: Ralph Adolphs, John Allman, Michael Alvarez, Colin Camerer, Dean Mobbs, John O'Doherty, Antonio Rangel, Steven Quartz, Shin Shimojo

Social Neuroscience

How does the brain encode and represent information about other individuals? What factors govern the ways in which we interact socially with others? What roles do facial expressions, eye gaze, and gestures play in how we interact with others? Why is it that we feel empathetic and altruistic toward others on some occasions, while on other occasions we don't feel that way? How can we make inferences about the intentions and attitudes of other people?

Relevant faculty: Ralph Adolphs, John Allman, Colin Camerer, Dean Mobbs, John O'Doherty, Antonio Rangel