Probing economic decision preferences in mice

Please join us for a brunch with Dr Ann Duan – see the cortex club event page for more info and sign up.

Real life decisions often occur in volatile environments and require strategic interaction between multiple decision makers. These external variables interact with our internal states and past experience, resulting in individual differences in decision preference, even when faced with identical sensory information. Imagine decisions at a poker table or foraging decisions in a competitive, changing environment. In both situations, animals make decisions based on incomplete information, under risk and uncertainty, and in a social context. Also, in both situations, the optimal strategy requires stochastic choices. Due to the multiplexed and dynamic nature of these types of decisions, there are usually no uniquely correct answers. Instead, choices reflect individuals’ varied decision preferences that lead to differential short-term and long-term gains. Our goal is to understand how animals make flexible decisions under risk and social influence, and the neural circuit mechanisms underlying these choices. Towards this goal, we plan to combine theory-motivated behavioural designs, quantitative extraction of animals’ internal states, large-scale, cellular-resolution monitoring and manipulation of brain activity during decision tasks, and computational modelling. In this talk, I will outline our lab’s vision, our approaches towards these goals, and preliminary progress over the past 1.5 years of my lab.