Scientists have for a long time been interested in mapping out the human brain and identifying where functions like emotions, decision-making and other important aspects. Researchers from the University of Tsukuba in Japan recently embarked on such a mission in which they sought to understand which parts of the brain handle economic decisions.
The scientists conducted a scientific study involving monkeys to understand their reward system and derive more insights into how those systems perceive or calculate value. The team of scientists trained monkeys to perform various tasks for which they would be rewarded. The task involved choosing one of two pie charts on a computer screen. The charts had different colors, each representing a reward and the probability that they would get that reward.
The findings from the study showed that the monkeys largely selected the pie charts with a higher expected value. The researchers also found that the decisions showed stable activity in four brain region namely the DS, VS, mOFC and cOFC. They concluded that the cOFC and VS combined were responsible for risk-return decisions, as well as calculating the expected value. Reward and probability are thus calculated through the integration of the two brain regions.
Scientists observed a difference in the decision-making periods
One of the key observations in the study was that the two brain regions behaved differently over time. For example, the expected value signals generated in the cOFC were generated quickly while those from the VS were generated at a slower pace.The findings from the University of Tsukuba study were different from similar studies conducted in the past.
Professor Masayuki Matsumoto, the lead researcher in the study explains that the difference is because the researchers in the recent study used state-space analysis to understand neuronal properties in the brain regions being studied. This method allowed the researchers to identify important aspects such as stability and time taken for the signals to be transmitted across neurons.
The recent study provides an interesting dynamic especially as far as the duration it takes for the decision to be made. It is likely that economic decisions in the human brain are also conducted in a similar fashion.