Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


45th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2019

Event Details

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B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Paper Session #333

The Neuroeconomics of Reinforcement and Choice: From Dopamine to Decision-Making

Sunday, May 26, 2019
5:00 PM–5:50 PM
Hyatt Regency East, Ballroom Level, Grand Ballroom AB
Area: BPN; Domain: Applied Research
Instruction Level: Intermediate
CE Instructor: Carla H. Lagorio, Ph.D.
Chair: Carla H. Lagorio (University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire)
PAUL GLIMCHER (New York University)
My post-doctoral training was with in oculomotor physiology. Working with Prof. David Sparks researching the brainstem and mesencephalic nuclei that control eye rotations, I uncovered evidence that structures participating in the execution of saccadic eye movements might be involved in planning those movements as well. Evidence of this type has been accumulating throughout the neuraxis, but few signals have been associated with any one of the covert processes postulated to intervene between sensation and action. As a result, over the past decade my laboratory has focused on the identification and characterization of signals that intervene between the neural processes that engage in sensory encoding and the neural processes that engage movement generations. These are the signals which must, in principle, underlie decision-making. My students and post-docs study these processes using a variety of tools that are drawn from the fields of neuroscience, economics and psychology. Our methodologies thus range from single neuron electrophysiology to fMRI to game theory. In a similar way, the members of my laboratory include scientists with primary training in neurobiology, economics, and psychology. One set of ongoing projects seek to understand how humans and animals make choices in time, a process usually called delay discounting. A second set of projects seeks to understand the contribution of midbrain dopamine systems to the process of valuing alternative courses of actions. A third set of ongoing related projects seeks to understand the role of the basal ganglia in choice. A fourth set of projects seeks to understand the structure of cortical areas involved in action selection both in the face of risk and in the face of ambiguity. The long-term goal of my research is to describe the neural events that underlie behavioral decision-making employing an interdisciplinary approach that is coming to be called "neuroeconomics". Our approach to this problem consolidates mathematical economic approaches to decision-making with traditional neurobiological tools. By using these tools in our physiological analyses we hope to develop a coherent view of how the brain makes decisions

Over the last decade cognitive neuroscientists have revealed the basic mechanisms of both operant and pavlovian conditioning in the mammalian brain. The dopaminergic neurons of the midbrain have been shown to compute a reward prediction error almost exactly as predicted by the psychologists of the 1970s had supposed. These signals implement a precise value computation in which reinforcement gives rise to a stored synaptic representation of the precise value of stimuli and actions. More recently, neuroeconomists have shown how these values are stored, accessed, and compared when humans and animals choose amongst actions. These new insights have validated many of the core tenets to learning theory, while broadly extending our notion of the response to include more representational mechanisms than had been previously supposed.

Target Audience:

Board certified behavior analysts; licensed psychologists; graduate students. 

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) discuss basic biology of reinforcement learning; (2) explain role of dopmaine in conditioning; (3) describe basic neural circuit for general-purpose decision-making.



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