Gene learning paper in Berkeley Science Review

Kevin Doxzen from Berkeley Science Review has written a fantastic piece about our genetic basis of strategic learning paper. The best part is that Kevin in his day job is a biophysicist, which allowed me to geek out a bit during the interview. Luckily he also translated most of that into language normal people speak. :)

New article on causal involvement of DLPFC in honesty

Our paper on the causal involvement of DLPFC in honesty has just been accepted at Nature Neuroscience! This will hopefully be one in a long line of papers by us and others applying signaling games to the study of honesty and deception.

Damage to dorsolateral prefrontal cortex affects tradeoffs between honesty and self-interest

Lusha Zhu, Adrianna C Jenkins, Eric Set, Donatella Scabini, Robert T Knight, Pearl H Chiu, Brooks King-Casas, and Ming Hsu

Substantial correlational evidence suggests that prefrontal regions are critical to honest and dishonest behavior, but causal evidence specifying the nature of this involvement remains absent. We found that lesions of the human dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) decreased the effect of honesty concerns on behavior in economic games that pit honesty motives against self-interest, but did not affect decisions when honesty concerns were absent. These results point to a causal role for DLPFC in honest behavior.

Welcome Lekha Viswanadham

We have a new addition to the lab this summer. Lekha Viswanadham is joining us from Caltech as part of the SURF program. She will be working with us this summer on developing novel methods for genetic and imaging genetic analysis of behavior. Welcome Lekha!

Brand decoding paper wins first prize poster award at ISDN 2014

Congratulations to Yuping Chen, whose poster "Decoding neural responses to consumer brands using functional MRI" was awarded first prize at the 2014 ISDN Conference!

Eric Set awarded Brems Graduate Research Award

Congratulations Eric on winning the Brems Graduate Research Award from the UIUC Economics department! We also offer a bounty on any pictures taken during the ceremony!!

New article on dopamine genes and strategic learning

Eric Set's paper on dopamine genes and strategic learning has just been accepted at PNAS. This has been an immense amount of work both conceptually thinking about how to characterize genetic effects on behavior in the context of the computational principles we have learned over the past decade, as well as statistically dealing with them in a tractable manner. I particularly liked the comments of one of our reviewers:

Set and colleagues present an impressive study combining sophisticated modeling of strategic behavior and a sophisticated genetic modeling approach.

Congratulations Eric! [PNAS Link]

Dissociable contribution of prefrontal and striatal dopaminergic genes to learning in economic games

Eric Set, Ignacio Saez, Lusha Zhu, Daniel E. Houser, Noah Myung, Songfa Zhong, Richard P. Ebsteing, Soo Hong Chew, and Ming Hsu

Game theory describes strategic interactions where success of players’ actions depends on those of coplayers. In humans, substantial progress has been made at the neural level in characteriz ing the dopaminergic and frontostriatal mechanisms mediating such behavior. Here we combined computational modeling of strategic learning with a pathway approach to characterize association of strategic behavior with variations in the dopamine pathway. Specifically, using gene-set analysis, we systematically examined contribution of different dopamine genes to variation in a multistrategy competitive game captured by (i) the degree players anticipate and respond to actions of others (belief learning) and (ii) the speed with which such adaptations take place (learning rate). We found that variation in genes that primarily regulate prefrontal dopamine clearance—catechol-O-methyl transferase (COMT) and two isoforms of monoamine oxidase—modulated degree of belief learning across individuals. In contrast, we did not find significant association for other genes in the dopamine pathway. Furthermore, variation in genes that primarily regulate striatal dopamine function—dopamine transporter and D2 receptors—was significantly associated with the learning rate. We found that this was also the case with COMT, but not for other dopaminergic genes. Together, these findings highlight dissociable roles of frontostriatal systems in strategic learning and support the notion that genetic variation, organized along specific pathways, forms an important source of variation in complex phenotypes such as strategic behavior.

University College London Talk

Over spring break I had a chance to be part of the Computational Psychiatry course at University College London (h.t. Xiaosi Gu). I gave one of the two talks that day to an audience consisting (I think) primarily of clinical fellows. It was thoroughly enjoyable, but what I did not expect was how eye opening this experience would be for me. As researchers, we talk a fair bit about connecting our research to applications and reaching out to clinicians, but the actual opportunity to do so is surprisingly hard to come by. Here was a real demonstration of what can be done but at the same time how much work there is to be done. I hope to have more to say about this topic in the future, but in the meantime here are slides and audio recording of the talk.[Slides] [Audio]