News Brief by Rebecca Moragne
Researchers at the University of Cambridge recently developed a model to predict human neural activity when faced with complex choices. Habit-based decisions are well understood while only now are goal-based decisions beginning to be comprehended. Goal-based decisions were previously difficult to understand due to their multiple variables. Goal-based decisions are non-habitual and have numerous potential outcomes and therefore, there is not a set pattern for them that there are for habit-based decisions. Dr. Johannes Friedrich, one of the researchers in Cambridge’s Department of Engineering stated that this model is “an important part of figuring out how the brain works, since the ability to make decisions is such a core competence for both humans and animals.” The model demonstrates how a system of neurons can determine the best decision in a specific situation and the decision’s outcome. Humans struggle when making a decision to predict the long-term effects that this model is able to compute. The model also imitates how neural synapses re-form depending on if the outcome of a previous choice was successful or not. Going forward this knowledge may be applied to algorithms in computers to process similar decisions.
University of Cambridge. “Modelling how the brain makes complex decisions.” ScienceDaily.
ScienceDaily, 4 February 2016. www.sciencedaily.-com/releases/2016/02/160204085103.htm