fMRI Study of Decision Making under Uncertainty

During a trip to CalTech to give an invited talk in December 2003, I was briefed by Colin Camerer and his team about an fMRI project that they were performing. The project, within the realm of neuroeconomics, centered on gathering and analyzing signals from the brain during decision making under uncertainty. Views of brain activity? Decisions under uncertainty? Even if preliminary, such an effort seemed intriguing. When offered a chance to have my own brain imaged before my presentation, I agreed. So, I served as a subject in the study. The experiment was set up to study differences in signals associated with decisions in the face of different kinds of lotteries--some including explicit information about probabilities of outcomes and others where explicit probabilistic information was not revealed. Decision theory prescribes how to react under such "ambiguity." The lotteries had real payoffs; I came away from the lotteries with enough money to buy lunch. I have wondered if my signals may have been influenced by my knowledge about ideal expected-value decisions under uncertainty. Perhaps a follow-up study comparing signals from decision-analystic savvy versus other folks would reveal something about the influence of such knowledge on sensed activity.

Here is my "profile," derived from the MRI at CalTech.

Here are some views from a substraction analysis of signals from my CNS from data collected during the study, showing differences in signals in different lottery situations.

The article by this team on this project appeared in Science in December 2005:
M. Hsu, M. Bhatt, R. Adolphs, D. Tranel, and C.F. Camerer, Neural Systems Responding to Degrees of Uncertainty in Human Decision-Making. Science, 310(5754), 1680-1683.

Here is a short overview:

If you have access to Science Online, you can read the full article here: here.

Thanks to Ming Hsu for sharing out my data.

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