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Ray Dolan

Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging,
Institute of Neurology

Emotional and decision making

How humans make decisions is one of the most complex problems in cognitive neuroscience.  There is increasing convergence across fields such as behaviour ecology, microeconomics, machine learning and neuroscience that integration of sensory information with prior knowledge, regarding values and probabilities of outcome is a major determinant of choice behaviour.  Thus, common to normative accounts is the idea that humans and animals make choices in order to maximise some ensuing benefit or utility.  However, in making choices decision makers have to contend with issues such as uncertainty and delay in outcomes and in these situations there is often an apparent deviation in behaviour from that predicted by normative models.  The work of the group is focused on understanding from a neurobiological perspective how humans make decisions, why they often exhibit deviations that can be described as “irrational” and how decision theory can inform our understanding of psychiatric disorders. The experimental approaches adopted by the group draws on computational neuroscience (including a close collaboration with the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit),  behavioural analysis, neuropharmacology, clinical studies and functional brain imaging. 


There are a range of projects available related to this general theme.


Pine A, Seymour B, Roiser J, Bossaerts P, Friston K, Curran HV, Dolan RJ.  (2009) Encoding of marginal utility across time in the human brain.  Journal of Neuroscience: 29, 9575-81.

Pleger B, Ruff CC, Blankenburg F, Kloppel S, Driver J, Dolan RJ.  (2009)  Influence of dopaminergically mediated reward on somatosensory decision making.  PLoS Biology: 7, e1000164.

De Martino B, Kumaran D, Holt B, Dolan R. (2009) The Neurobiology of Reference-Dependent Value Computation.  Journal of Neuroscience:  29, 3833-42.

Wittmann B, Daw ND, Seymour B, Dolan RJ.  (2008) Striatal activity underlies novelty-based choice in humans.  Neuron: 58, 967-73.

O’Doherty J, Buchanan T, Seymour B and Dolan RJ. (2006) Predictive neural coding of reward preference involves dissociable responses in human ventral midbrain and ventral striatum. Neuron: 49, 157-66.

Seymour B, Daw N, Dayan P, Singer T and Dolan RJ. (2007)  Differential encoding of losses and gains in the human striatum.  Journal of Neuroscience: 27, 4826-31.

Daw ND, O’Doherty JP, Dayan P, Seymour B and Dolan RJ. (2006) Cortical substrates for exploratory decisions in humans. Nature: 441, 876-9.

De Martino B, Kumaran D, Seymour B and Dolan RJ. (2006) Frames, biases and rational decision-making in the human brain. Science: 313, 684-7.


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