Fig1Purkinjecell Fig2myelinatedaxons SJBfmri1


Sven Bestmann

Sobell Department of Motor Neuroscience and Movement Disorders

Human Decision making and action selection

Without actions, our thoughts, ideas, intentions, and feeling remain silent. In our lab, we study how these processes are ultimately transformed into actions.
For example, a fundamental feature of our behaviour is the use of predictions about our environment to prepare and specify actions in advance of an event. Learning about the uncertainty in the environment enables us to prepare and select actions, leading to remarkable improvements in behavioural responses. While we know which brain regions are concerned with learning on the one hand, and executing the action on the other, it remains poorly understood how the brain may link these two processes.
We ask how prior information and predictions about events, such as a future reward or the appearance of an aversive visual stimulus, bias activity in the human motor system, which may help to transform decision into actions. We use model-based approaches that allow for specific predictions on how cognitive states can bias activity at the level of premotor and motor cortex. Our research addresses these issues using a multimodal neuroimaging approach that includes different techniques of complementary strengths such as neuroimaging (fMRI, EEG) and electrophysiology (TMS, cortical excitability measures)

The specific projects can be adapted to suit individual student requirements wherever possible.
Should you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us


1) The effect or action preparation on parieto-motor interactions during value-based decision making (dual-coil TMS)
2) The time-course of parieto-motor interactions during action-linked decision making
3) When do value-based decisions influence primary motor cortex (M1), and is M1 excitability modulated by expected value/motivation?


Bestmann S, Swayne O, Blankenburg F, Ruff CC, Teo J, Weiskopf N, Driver J, Rothwell JC, Ward NS. (in press)
The role of contralesional dorsal premotor cortex after stroke.
J Neurosci

Ruff CC, Driver J, Bestmann S (2009)
Combining TMS and fMRI: from “virtual lesions” to functional network accounts of cognition.
Cortex 45:1043-1049

Mars RB, Debener S, Gladwin TE, Harrison LM, Haggard P, Rothwell JC, Bestmann S.  (2008)
Trial-by-trial fluctuations in the event-related encephalogram reflect dynamic changes in the degree of surprise.
J Neurosci (In press)

Bestmann S, Harrison L, Blankenburg F, Mars R, Haggard P, Friston K, Rothwell JC  (2008)
Influences of contextual uncertainty and surprise on human corticospinal excitability during preparation for action.
Current Biology 18:775-780

Bestmann S, Swayne O, Blankenburg F, Ruff CC, Haggard P, Weiskopf N, Josephs O, Driver J, Rothwell JC, Ward NS  (2008)
Dorsal premotor cortex exerts state-dependent causal influences on activity in contralateral motor and premotor cortex.
Cereb Cortex 18:1281-1291


Back to list of supervisors