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How the brain helps us make good decisions – and bad



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A prevailing theory of neuroscience implies that people make decisions based on integrated global calculations that occur within the cortex of the brain front.

However, Yale researchers have found that three different circuits linking to different brain areas are involved in making good decisions, poor and determining which of the previous selections to store in memory, reports on June 25 in the journal Neuron .

The study of decision making in rats can help scientists find the root of a failing decision-making common to mental disorders as addiction, the authors say.

"Specific decision-making processes change in people with mental illness," said Jane Taylor, psychiatry professor and senior study author. "Our findings suggest that these impairments may be associated with dysfunction within various neural circuits."

Scientists used a new tool to manipulate brain circuits in rats while making choices between actions that led them to receive rewards or no rewards. The authors found decision making not limited to the orbital frontal cortex, the seat of higher order thinking. Instead, brain circuits from the orbital frontal cortex connecting to deeper brain areas performed three different decision calculations.

"There are at least three individual processes that combine in unique ways to help us make good decisions," said Stephanie Groman, associate psychiatric researcher and lead author of the research.

Groman says that an analogy would determine a restaurant for dinner. If restaurant A has good food, a brain circuit is activated. If the food is bad, another circuit is activated. A third circuit records the experience, good or bad. All three are crucial to the decision-making process, says Groman.

For example. Without the "good choice" circuit you can't return to the restaurant with good food and without the "bad choice" circuit you can't avoid the restaurant with poor food. The third memory circuit is crucial for decisions as if to return to the restaurant after receiving a bad meal after several goodies.

Changes in these circuits can help explain a feature of addiction ̵

1; why people continue to make harmful choices even after repeated negative experiences, researchers say.

The Yale researchers previously showed that some of the same brain calculations were disturbed in animals that had taken methamphetamine. "

" Because we used a test similar to those used in human decision-making studies, our results are of direct relevance to humans and could help search for new treatments for drug addiction in humans, "Groman said.


& # 39; Mind Reading & # 39; neurons are able to have expectations of the behavior of others


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How the brain helps us make good decisions – and bad (2019, June 25)
June 25, 2019
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