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How does the brain implement economic choice and self-control?

We are interested in generating brain-based models of reward-based decisions and the processes that help us regulate those decisions. We are especially interested in risk, curiosity, and flexibility, as well as in the fundamental problem of value comparison. We use three complementary techniques:

(1) recordings of single units and local field potentials in reward regions

(2) computational modeling 

(3) careful analysis of behavior

How do we make decisions in naturalistic contexts?

We believe that, while laboratory environments and tasks can be helpful, decisions made in natural contexts are  often different, and provide a more realistic measure of brain function. In our experiments, we take inspiration from evolutionary theory, foraging theory, behavioral ecology, and field studies. We are currently developing three new techniques:

(1) Behaviorally complex foraging tasks (think Pac-man)

(2) Virtual foraging tasks (think Wolfenstein)

(3) Freely moving tasks (think hide-and-seek)

Developing novel understanding of psychiatric disease with a goal of improving treatment

We plan to make use of recordings in both normal and compromised patients with a goal of understanding how circuits contribute to psychiatric disease. We work closely with clinicians to turn these insights into testable clinical hypotheses that can in turn produce treatment.

Our ultimate goal is to understand brain circuits associated with drug addiction, depression, and anxiety disorder so as to improve clinical outcomes.

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