Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology

United Kingdom

Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology

United Kingdom

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GLASGOW, 13-Jun-2017 — /EuropaWire/ — Researchers have found a direct window into the brain systems involved in making every day decisions based on preference. The study, led by a team of neuroscientists at the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology, and published today in Nature Communications, offers crucial insight into the neural mechanisms underlying our decision-making process, opening up new avenues for the investigation of preference-based choices in humans. Whether we decide to opt for a piece of apple or a piece of cake is, for example, a preference-based decision. How our brains arrive at such decisions – as well as choices that rely on our subjective valuation of different alternatives – is currently a popular research topic. Previously it was unclear where the brain implements preference-based choices and whether it uses a mechanism similar to when we make decisions purely based on the perceptual properties of the alternatives (like choosing the bigger of two items). Study lead Dr Philiastides said: “Our research suggests that preference-based and perceptual decisions might share a common underlying mechanism in the brain. Our findings also suggest that preference-based decisions might be represented in the same brain areas that plan the action to execute the decision, i.e. the hand reaching to grab the preferred item.” He added: “Our findings have important implications for a broad range of socioeconomic problems ranging from public policy analysis, like informing health behaviours, to brain-informed advertisement strategies and product design. “In addition, the work can improve our understanding of mental and neurodegenerative disorders known to compromise one’s decision-making faculties, like depression, schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease by offering a direct window into the brain systems involved in goal-directed choices.” The study presented participants with pairs of snacks, like a chocolate bar and a pack of crisps, and asked them to choose their preferred item. To identify the brain areas involved in these decisions, the team used a state-of-the-art multimodal brain imaging procedure. Volunteers wore an EEG cap (to measure their brain electrical activity) whilst being simultaneously scanned in an MRI machine. An EEG cap records neural activity (tiny electrical signals on the surface of the scalp), providing information about “when” a certain event takes place in the brain and how it unfolds in time, while functional MRI provides information on “where” this activity happens in the brain. The EEG revealed that decision activity unfolds gradually over time and persists until one commits to a choice. This EEG activity was then localised with fMRI in the posterior medial frontal cortex of those who participated in the study, a brain region that has not been previously linked directly with preference-based decisions. Andrea Pisauro, the first author of the paper, said: “This is similar to when we make perceptual decisions, like choosing the larger of two slices of cake. The brain accumulates information supporting one of the decision alternatives until an internal criterion is reached and a decision is made.” The paper, ‘Neural correlates of evidence accumulation during value-based decisions revealed via simultaneous EEG-fMRI’ is published in Nature Communications. The work was funded by the BBSRC and ESRC.


Cecere R.,University of Bologna | Cecere R.,Centro Studi e Ricerche in Neuroscienze Cognitive | Cecere R.,Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology | Bertini C.,University of Bologna | And 5 more authors.
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience | Year: 2014

Visual threat-related signals are not only processed via a cortical geniculo-striatal pathway to the amygdala but also via a subcortical colliculo-pulvinar-amygdala pathway, which presumably mediates implicit processing of fearful stimuli. Indeed, hemianopic patients with unilateral damage to the geniculo-striatal pathway have been shown to respond faster to seen happy faces in their intact visual field when unseen fearful faces were concurrently presented in their blind field [Bertini, C., Cecere, R., & Làdavas, E. I amblind, but I “see” fear. Cortex, 49, 985–993, 2013]. This behavioral facilitation in the presence of unseen fear might reflect enhanced processing of consciously perceived faces because of early activation of the subcortical pathway for implicit fear perception, which possibly leads to a modulation of cortical activity. To test this hypothesis, we examined ERPs elicited by fearful and happy faces presented to the intact visual field of right and left hemianopic patients, whereas fearful, happy, or neutral faces were concurrently presented in their blind field. Results showed that the amplitude of the N170 elicited by seen happy faces was selectively increased when an unseen fearful face was concurrently presented in the blind field of right hemianopic patients. These results suggest that when the geniculo-striate visual pathway is lesioned, the rapid and implicit processing of threat signals can enhance facial encoding. Notably, the N170 modulation was only observed in left-lesioned patients, favoring the hypothesis that implicit subcortical processing of fearful signals can influence face encoding only when the right hemisphere is intact. © 2014 Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Han C.,Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology | Hahn A.C.,Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology | Fisher C.I.,Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology | Debruine L.M.,Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology | Jones B.C.,Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology
American Journal of Human Biology | Year: 2015

Objectives: Although many theories of human facial attractiveness propose positive correlations between facial attractiveness and measures of actual health, evidence for such correlations is somewhat mixed. Here we sought to replicate a recent study reporting that women's facial attractiveness is independently related to both their adiposity and cortisol. Methods: Ninety-six women provided saliva samples, which were analyzed for cortisol level, and their height and weight, which were used to calculate their body mass index (BMI). A digital face image of each woman was also taken under standardized photographic conditions and rated for attractiveness. Results: There was a significant negative correlation between women's facial attractiveness and BMI. By contrast, salivary cortisol and facial attractiveness were not significantly correlated. Conclusions: Our results suggest that the types of health information reflected in women's faces include qualities that are indexed by BMI but do not necessarily include qualities that are indexed by cortisol. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


Walker M.P.,University of California at Berkeley | Robertson E.M.,Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology
Current Biology | Year: 2016

Recent work has shown that, during sleep, a functional circuit is created amidst a general breakdown in connectivity following fast-frequency bursts of brain activity. The findings question the unconscious nature of deep sleep, and provide an explanation for its contribution to memory processing. © 2016 Elsevier Ltd All rights reserved.


PubMed | University of California at Berkeley and Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology
Type: Comment | Journal: Current biology : CB | Year: 2016

Recent work has shown that, during sleep, a functional circuit is created amidst a general breakdown inconnectivity following fast-frequency bursts of brain activity. The findings question the unconscious nature of deep sleep, and provide an explanation for its contribution to memory processing.

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