IN AN ATTEMPT TO PUT MATTER OVER MIND, researchers are beginning to decipher what exactly is happening in our brains when we are making decisions.
Our thoughts, though abstract and vaporous in form, are determined by the actions of specific neuronal circuits in our brains. The new field known as “decision neuroscience” is uncovering those circuits, thereby mapping thinking on a cellular level. Although still a young field, research in this area has exploded in the last decade, with findings suggesting it is possible to parse out the complexity of thinking into its individual components and decipher how they are integrated when we ponder. Eventually, such findings will lead to a better understanding of a wide range of mental disorders, from depression to schizophrenia, as well as explain how exactly we make the multitude of decisions that ultimately shape our destiny.
Recently, three experts in decision neuroscience discussed their work, describing the genesis of this cutting-edge field and why it incorporates several disciplines. They also identified the driving questions in the field and reflected on the potential practical applications of this research. The investigators who participated are:
- DAEYEOL LEE, PhD, Department of Neurobiology and Kavli Institute for Neuroscience, Yale University School of Medicine
- C. DANIEL SALZMAN, MD, PhD., Department of Psychiatry and Neuroscience and Kavli Institute for Brain Science, Columbia University School of Medicine
- XIAO-JING WANG, PhD., Department of Neurobiology, Physics and Psychology; Director, Swartz Program in Theoretical Neurobiology; Kavli Institute of Neuroscience, Yale University School of Medicine