Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Who decides in the brain? How decision-making processes are influenced by neurons

Date:
January 15, 2013
Source:
Universitaet Tübingen
Summary:
Neuroscientists have shown how decision-making processes are influenced by neurons. Whether in society or nature, decisions are often the result of complex interactions between many factors. Because of this it is usually difficult to determine how much weight the different factors have in making a final decision. Neuroscientists face a similar problem since decisions made by the brain always involve many neurons.

Tübingen neuroscientists have shown how decision-making processes are influenced by neurons.

Related Articles


Whether in society or nature, decisions are often the result of complex interactions between many factors. Because of this it is usually difficult to determine how much weight the different factors have in making a final decision. Neuroscientists face a similar problem since decisions made by the brain always involve many neurons. Working in collaboration, the University of Tübingen and the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, supported within the framework of the Bernstein Network, researchers lead by CIN professor Matthias Bethge have now shown how the weight of individual neurons in the decision-making process can be reconstructed despite interdependencies between the neurons.

When we see a person on the other side of the street who looks like an old friend, the informational input enters the brain via many sensory neurons. But which of these neurons are crucial in passing on the relevant information to higher brain areas, which will decide who the person is and whether to wave and say 'hello'? A research group lead by Matthias Bethge has now developed an equation that allows them to calculate to what degree a given individual sensory neuron is involved in the decision process.

To approach this question, researchers have so far considered the information about the final decision that an individual sensory neuron carries. Just as an individual is considered suspicious if he or she is found to have insider information about a crime, those sensory neurons whose activity contains information about the eventual decision are presumed to have played a role in reaching the final decision. The problem with this approach is that neurons -- much like people -- are constantly communicating with each other. A neuron which itself is not involved in the decision may simply have received this information from a neighboring neuron and "joined in" the conversation. Actually, the neighboring cell sends out the crucial signal transmitted to the higher decision areas in the brain.

The new formula that has been developed by scientists addresses this by accounting not just for the information in the activity of any one neuron but also for the communication that takes place between them. This formula will now be used to determine whether only a few neurons that carry a lot of information are involved in the brain's decision process, or whether the information contained in very many neurons gets combined. In particular, it will be possible to address the more fundamental question: In which decisions does the brain use information in an optimal way, and for which decisions is its processing suboptimal?


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Universitaet Tübingen. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ralf M Haefner, Sebastian Gerwinn, Jakob H Macke, Matthias Bethge. Inferring decoding strategies from choice probabilities in the presence of correlated variability. Nature Neuroscience, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/nn.3309

Cite This Page:

Universitaet Tübingen. "Who decides in the brain? How decision-making processes are influenced by neurons." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 January 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130115124347.htm>.
Universitaet Tübingen. (2013, January 15). Who decides in the brain? How decision-making processes are influenced by neurons. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 29, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130115124347.htm
Universitaet Tübingen. "Who decides in the brain? How decision-making processes are influenced by neurons." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130115124347.htm (accessed January 29, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

City Divided: A Look at Model Schools in the TDSB

City Divided: A Look at Model Schools in the TDSB

The Toronto Star (Jan. 27, 2015) — Model schools are rethinking how they engage with the community to help enhance the lives of the students and their parents. Video provided by The Toronto Star
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Saves Pennies For 65 Years

Man Saves Pennies For 65 Years

Rooftop Comedy (Jan. 26, 2015) — A man in Texas saved every penny he found for 65 years, and this week he finally cashed them in. Bank tellers at Prosperity Bank in Slaton, Texas were shocked when Ira Keys arrived at their bank with over 500 pounds of loose pennies stored in coffee cans. After more than an hour of sorting and counting, it turned out the 81 year-old was in possession of 81,600 pennies, or $816. And he&apos;s got more at home! Video provided by Rooftop Comedy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Technology Is Ruining Snow Days For Students

How Technology Is Ruining Snow Days For Students

Newsy (Jan. 25, 2015) — More schools are using online classes to keep from losing time to snow days, but it only works if students have Internet access at home. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Weird Things Couples Do When They Lose Their Phone

Weird Things Couples Do When They Lose Their Phone

BuzzFeed (Jan. 24, 2015) — Did you back it up? Do you even know how to do that? Video provided by BuzzFeed
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins