UCL News


Battle in the brain: How we make choices

14 June 2006

A new study found regions in the brain that are active when a person decides whether to exploit a known commodity or explore a potentially better option.

The finding, published in the June 15 issue of the journal 'Nature', suggests that in order to explore new and potentially rewarding options, the brain must override the desire for immediate profit.

The researchers analyzed study participants' brain activity as they played a gambling game with four animated slot machines. …

As the participants were deciding to explore for higher rewards, regions of the brain located behind the forehead and associated with logic became active. If they chose to exploit, regions deeper in the brain associated with pleasure and reward were more active.

"You have logic pitted against these areas that are more associated with pleasure than value," said study co-author Dr Nathaniel Daw [Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit at UCL].

"Do you want to wait 10 minutes to eat two cookies or eat one cookie now?"

Bjorn Carey, LiveScience, MSNBC