New paper on understanding how the brain makes decisions using intracranial recordings

Ignacio Saez’s paper has been accepted at Current Biology.

Encoding of multiple reward-related computations in transient and sustained high-frequency activity in human OFC

Authors: Ignacio Saez, Jack Lin, Arjen Stolk, Edward Chang, Josef Parvizi, Gerwin Schalk, Robert T. Knight1, and Ming Hsu

Human orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) has long been implicated in value-based decision-making. In recent years, convergent evidence from human and model organisms have further elucidated its role in representing reward-related computations underlying decision-making. However, a detailed description of these processes remains elusive, due in part to (i) limitations in our ability to observe human OFC neural dynamics at the timescale of decision processes, and (ii) methodological and interspecies differences that make it challenging to connect human and animal findings or to resolve discrepancies when they arise. Here we sought to address these challenges by conducting multi-electrode electrocorticography (ECoG) recordings in neurosurgical patients during economic decision-making to elucidate the electrophysiological signature, sub-second temporal profile, and anatomical distribution of reward-related computations within human OFC. We found that high frequency activity (HFA, 70-200Hz) reflected multiple valuation components grouped in two classes of valuation signals that were dissociable in temporal profile and information content: (i) fast, transient responses reflecting signals associated with choice and outcome-processing, including anticipated risk and outcome regret, and (ii) sustained responses explicitly encoding what happened in the immediately preceding trial. Anatomically, these responses were widely distributed in partially overlapping networks, including regions in the central OFC (Brodmann Areas 11 and 13) which have been consistently implicated in reward processing in animal single unit studies. Together, these results integrate insights drawn from human and animal studies and provide evidence for a role of human OFC in representing multiple reward computations.

Ignacio and Weilun Going Away Dinner

Going away dinner for Ignacio Saez and Weilun Ding at Lemat.

From left: Ignacio Saez, Weilun Ding, Max Good, Siyana Hristova, Zhihao Zhang, Gil Sharvit, Ming Hsu, and Nick Angelides.

Anna Going Away Dinner

Going away dinner with now Prof. Anna Jenkins at Agricole before her cross-country drive.

From left: Weilun Ding, Gil Sharvit, Anna Jenkins, Zhihao Zhang, Ming Hsu, and Nick Angelide

Ekaterina Goncharova undergraduate research poster

Ekaterina Goncharova received first runner-up for undergraduate research poster award for her work on association of psychopathology on social perception, social valuation, and social behavior. Congratulations Ekaterina!

Ignacio Saez starting as assistant professor at UC Davis in Fall

Ignacio Saez has just accepted a faculty position at UC Davis.
He will be starting as assistant professor in the neurosurgery department at UC Davis Medical School this coming fall.
Congratulations Ignacio!

CRCNS PI Meeting 2018

UC Berkeley is proud to host the CRCNS 2018 PI Meeting. This is the annual meeting to bring together recipients of the NSF sponsored Collaborative Research in Computational Neuroscience. It will take place from June 13–June 15, at UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science, located in the hills above the main campus with a spectacular 180 degree view of the San Francisco Bay.


Anna Jenkins Named APS Rising Star

Anna Jenkins was named a 2017 Association for Psychological Science Rising Star.

The Rising Star designation recognizes outstanding psychological scientists in the earliest stages of their research career post-PhD whose innovative work has already advanced the field and signals great potential for their continued contributions.

Congratulations Anna!

Berkeley Science Journal Interview

Last semester I had a very enjoyable interview with the undergraduate run Berkeley Science Journal. The interview is now available online. In it I talk about some of the practical applications of neuroscience to business practice, as well as my own career and advice for undergraduates interested in this area. I talk a bit more about the career advice bit in my faculty page.


Thomas Dolman nominated for best MSc thesis prize

Thomas Dolman has been nominated for best MSc Thesis prize, the Darwin, for his work as a visiting graduate student in our lab this past spring. Good luck Thomas!

Anna Jenkins starting at UPenn as assistant professor in Fall

Anna Jenkins has accepted a faculty position at UPenn.
She will be starting as assistant professor of psychology this coming fall.
Congratulations Anna!

SfN 2017 - Zhihao Zhang presentation

Zhihao Zhang presenting dynamic poster at SfN 2017.


Lab dinner for Pierre & Clara

Lab dinner to celebrate Pierre Karashchuk and Clara Pretus on their time at Berkeley!

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From left: Weilun, Zhihao, Ming, Pierre, Anna, Clara, Gil.

New paper on neural basis of updating under ambiguity

Congratulations to Kenji Kobayashi, who paper on updating under ambiguity was just accepted at Journal of Neuroscience.

Title: Neural mechanisms of updating under reducible and irreducible uncertainty

Authors: Kenji Kobayashi and Ming Hsu

Adaptive decision-making depends on agents’ ability to make use of environmental signals to reduce uncertainty. However, because there exist multiple types of uncertainty, agents should take into account not only the extent to which signals violate prior expectancy but also whether uncertainty can be reduced in the first place. Here we studied how the brain responds to signals under conditions of reducible and irreducible uncertainty. We show behaviorally that subjects’ value updating was sensitivity to the reducibility of uncertainty, and could be quantitative characterized by a Bayesian model where agents ignore expectancy violations that do not update beliefs or values. Using fMRI, we found that neural processes underlying belief and value updating were separable from responses to expectancy violation, and that reducibility of uncertainty in value modulated connection from belief- to value-updating regions. Together, these results provide insights into how agents use the knowledge on uncertainty to improve decisions while ignoring mere expectancy violation. 

Lab Dinner for Daniel, Rachel, and Thomas

Lab dinner to celebrate Daniel Wong, Rachel Lee, and Thomas Dolman for their time at the lab!

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From Left: Zhihao, Daniel, Pierre, Rachel, Anna, Thomas, Ignacio

New paper on Neuromarketing in California Management Review

New paper just accepted at California Management Review.

Neuromarketing: Inside the mind of the consumer

Managers today are under tremendous pressure to uncover factors driving customers’ attitudes and behavior. Unfortunately, traditional methods suffer from well-known limitations, and have remained largely unchanged since their introduction decades ago. As a result, there is growing interest in brain-based approaches that may enable managers to directly probe customers’ underlying thoughts, feelings, and intentions. This article aims to provide practical guidance to managers on using these tools, focusing on two distinct uses: validation of existing insights and generation of novel insights. Throughout, we stress that managers should see traditional and brain-based approaches as complements, rather than substitutes, in understanding customers.

Pierre Karashchuk receives NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Congratulations to Pierre Karashchuk, who was just awarded the prestigious NSF Graduate Student Research Fellowship for his proposal applying computational linguistic models to understand stereotypes in natural language!

Welcome to Gil Sharvit

Welcome to Gil Sharvit, who is joining our lab on a postdoctoral research fellowship from the Swiss National Fund. He will be investigating cognitive mechanisms of disclosure behavior, whether the human brain encodes for a dedicated value in those situations, and how can learn to avoid bad decisions (e.g. regretful exposure) when we exchange information with others.

New paper on Dissociable contributions of imagination and willpower to the malleability of human patience

Anna Jenkins’s paper has been accepted at Psychological Science.

Dissociable contributions of imagination and willpower to the malleability of human patience

The ability to exercise patience is important for human functioning. Although it is widely known that patience can be promoted by using willpower to override impatient impulses, patience is also malleable—in particular, susceptible to framing effects—in ways that are difficult to explain on a willpower account alone. So far, the mechanisms underlying framing effects on patience have been elusive. Here we investigated a role for imagination, dissociable from willpower, in these effects. Behaviorally, a classic framing manipulation increased self-reported and independently-coded imagination during intertemporal choice (Experiment 1). Neurally, reframing increased the extent to which patience was associated with activation in brain regions associated with imagination, relative to those associated with willpower, and increased functional connectivity of brain regions associated with imagination, but not willpower, to regions associated with valuation (Experiment 2). Results suggest that reframing can increase the role of imagination in decision-making without increasing willpower exertion.

Welcome to Thomas Dolman

Welcome to Thomas Dolman, who is visiting us from University of Amsterdam as a visiting Master’s student. He will be using psychophysical approaches to data gathering and a computational approach to making predictions on social perception integration.

Congratulations Dr. Kenji Kobayashi!

Kenji Kobayashi has officially received his Ph.D. He will be starting as a postdoc in the Gottlieb lab at Columbia in the spring. Congratulations Kenji! Now for the commencement photos. :)