CBBM-Lecture by Gerhard Jocham

Our collaborator in the Psychology department, the Obleser-group, featured a CBBM-lecture by Prof. Gerhard Jocham (Biological Psychology of Decision Making Institute of Experimental Psychology, HHU Düsseldorf).
Title: Decision making: memory, patch-leaving and cortical mechanisms
Abstract: The first part of the presentation will focus on the bi-directional interaction between memory and decision making. Decisions are guided by information stored in memory. I will present behavioral and fMRI data acquired during a second-order conditioning (SOC) paradigm to provide evidence that, during higher-order learning, outcome-predictive conditioned stimuli reinstate the cortical representations of the outcome with which they had previously been paired. This may allow transfer of motivational value to novel stimuli that had never been directly paired with reinforcement. Next, I will argue that the mere act of making a choice may in turn shape our associative memories. Simply choosing/not choosing an option from a pair (absent any outcome) was sufficient to (i) increase/decrease choice probabilities compared to an otherwise equally-valued alternative option and to (ii) strengthen/weaken hippocampal stimulus-outcome associations.
The second part will begin by addressing the relationship between a measure of cortical excitation/inhibition (E/I) balance and two different kinds of decision making. The decision of whether or not to incur a travel cost in order to abandon a depleting patch (in favour of a better alternative) was related to E/I balance in dorsal anterior cingulate cortex. In contrast, simple reward-maximizing decisions were related to E/I balance in ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Finally, I will sketch some studies in progress and future plans on directly targeting cortical physiology with pharmacological interventions. This will be combined with biophysical modelling, with the goal of somehow linking the microscopic (cellular/synaptic) level with large-scale network dynamics – and ultimately with choice behaviour.
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