Rick L. Jenison

Professor

Department of Psychology

1202 West Johnson Street
University of Wisconsin
Madison, WI 53706

email: rjenison@wisc.edu
Tel: (608)  262-9945
Fax: (608) 263-5929

 

 

 

 

Research Summary

We are faced every day with economic decisions that involve some degree of uncertainty. Should I risk buying this stock today when there is some likelihood that it will plummet in price tomorrow? Where in the brain are measures of likelihood and risk computed? This is a fundamental question posed in Neuroeconomics. Neuroeconomics is a new field whose goal is to bridge brain neuroscience with behavioral economics and decision-making. Neuroeconomics promises not only to inform and constrain behavioral models by observed physiological processes, but also offers new perspectives on modeling the neural circuitry of value-based decision-making.

In collaboration with the Human Brain Research Laboratory in the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Iowa, we are investigating single-unit coding of economic variables, such as expected utility, from direct recordings of the human amygdala in patients with intractable epilepsy. Building the bridge between basic economic variables and brain activity at the level of single-units requires the development of new sophisticated methodologies that efficiently extract information from spiking activity of the neuron. A neuron communicates with other neurons by the timing of action potentials (spikes). Mathematically, these processes are referred to as point processes because the dependent variable is a point in time (or space) and not a measure of a continuous signal amplitude amplitude. As a computational neuroscientist I have spent several decades developing models of neural coding for sensory information processing, and I am now translating this work to the study of decision-making and neuroeconomics.

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