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Neuroeconomics
Neuroeconomics seeks to use neuroscience to guide theories about how people make economic decisions - and to use economic theory to guide the development of our understanding of the brain. Our primary goal is to untangle the brain mechanisms that allow for comparison and selection of possible options, whether they vary by amplitude, risk, or delay. Dr. Hayden was recognized as the Outstanding Young Investigator by the Society for Neuroeconomics in 2009.

Download our Neuron paper about how mutual inhibition processes produce economic choices in vmPFC.



Self-Control
Some people have an easy time resisting unhealthy foods or drugs. Others do not. What accounts for these differences?
We actively seek to understand how urges corresponding to temptation and delayed gratification are represented in the brain, and how the competition between them is implemented. We are seeking to develop human and animal models for self-control, and to develop ways to improve self-control. This research has direct relevance to OCD, addiction, depression, and dieting.

Download our Nature Neuroscience paper looking how the anterior cingulate allows us to decide when to stop no longer rewarding behaviors.
Download our PNAS paper looking at the psychological processes that occur when animals make intertemporal choices.



Curiosity
Humans and animals demonstrate a consistent drive to learn about their worlds, above and beyond the basic urges like hunger and thirst. We are even interested in learning the outcomes of unchosen paths - fictive outcomes. The reasons for this drive remain mysterious. We hope to develop animal and human models of curiosity, and study how reward circuitry contributes to information seeking for real and fictive outcomes.
Download our Current Biology paper about how posterior cingulate cortex manages the tradeoff between exploration and exploitation.



Disease
We should be more amazed how our brains allow us to make good decisions every day. Far too many people suffer from diseases of the reward system, diseases that reflect breakdowns of reward machinery. We hope that by understanding the neural computations that support decisions about rewards, we can gain insight into these diseases. We actively collaborate with a multi-site group of researchers who study obsessive compulsive disorder.



... and More
Research into the neural basis of choice has direct implications on many deep philosophical questions, especially as they relate to free will.
We love to get carried away with equations and models and the economic and psychological minutiae. But our work has direct implications for some of the most fundamental questions in philosophy. The more we untangle the question of how choices get made, the closer we get to studying free will. Honestly, we don't have any idea for how to use scientific techniques to approach these problems, but we would love to work with an outstanding undergraduate, grad student, or post-doc who thinks they do.










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© 2017 University of Rochester, Brain & Cognitive Sciences

Last modified March 2017