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Emotion, value and the tyranny of choice

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  • UserProfessor Ray Dolan, Director, Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, University College London, UK
  • ClockWednesday 30 September 2009, 09:00-09:45
  • HouseWest Road Concert Hall.

If you have a question about this talk, please contact Hannah Critchlow.

Abstract: Normative accounts of decision making invoke the idea that we choose in order to optimise the hedonic value, or utility, of future outcomes. Thus, a decision maker faced with a choice between a set of options should weigh the utility of each choice and select an option that offers the maximal expected utility. Many of the processes involved in decision making can be given formal mathematical descriptions within the framework of reinforcement learning (RL). One of the most exciting aspects of the science of decision making is its likely importance for psychiatry where it allows a principled account of how humans represent quantities such as reward, risk and loss. In this talk I will illustrate key themes in decision science including how the human brain encodes reward value, under a range of contexts. I will suggest that a corruption core processes in decision making may explain common deficits seen in psychiatric disorders including anhedonia, amotivation and impulsivity. I will conclude with a plea for a psychopathology grounded in knowledge emerging from systems and computational neuroscience.

Biography: Ray Dolan is Mary Kinross Professor of Neuropsychiatry at UCL and Director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at UCL . His research is concerned with a neurobiological characterisation of human emotion and how it interacts with other components of cognition, particularly attention memory and decision making. An emphasis in his recent work has been to link activation patterns seen during functional neuroimaging experiments to theoretical models, particularly models from reinforcement learning theory. He is among the top 5 most cited scientists in the world in the field of Neuroscience and Behaviour, and the author of 350 original papers.. He is the recipient of numerous awards and prizes including an Alexander Von Humboldt Research International Research Award for Outstanding Scholars (2004), the Kenneth Craik Research Award (2006), the Minerva Foundation Golden Brain Award (2006) and the prestigious International Max Planck Research Award (2007).

This talk is part of the Clinical Neuroscience and Mental Health Symposium series.

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