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Thursday, 28 May 2009, 11:00AM
Barnard's Inn Hall

Decision-making in Health and Disease - Part Two

Dr Quentin Huys, Dr Neil Harrison, Dr Ben Seymour, Dr Nick Wright

The talks in this second part of the symposium include the following:

 

The disordered brain: Are decisions always perfect? No! by Quentin Huys and Neil Harrison

Choices we make now can influence our future options; ideally, we'd take this into account. We review different ways this can be done, and discuss how animal and human brains use three different systems in parallel to achieve this: goal-directed, habitual and Pavlovian systems. One system is generally more appropriate to the task at hand than the other, and brains are usually great at deciding when to use each one. But sometimes they get it wrong, and scientists love to explore these scenarios. We discuss how the interaction between the three decision systems can give rise to what looks like suboptimal behaviour, forming the basis for understanding what happens when decision-making breaks down. This occurs in situation such as frontal lobe lesions or in psychopaths. Finally, we explore how patients with autism show paradoxically improved decision-making.

 

The social brain: How do we make decisions when others are involved? by Ben Seymour

In this talk, we considered what happens when animals and humans live together in groups. We considered how cooperation and competition emerge side-by-side as we try to optimise our welfare in an environment which we share with others. We discussed how our decisions reflect a constructed or inferred morality, and how different decision systems in the brain may be responsible for social emotions (such as empathy and schadenfreude) and social cognition (such as reciprocity and Theory of Mind). Finally, we discussed how the interaction of these systems yields human altruism.

28may09heathdisease_quentinhuys.jpg
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dr-ben-seymour

Honorary Research Fellow at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, London, and a Research Fellow at the ESRC Centre for Economic Learning and Social Evolution, UCL London.

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dr-nick-wright

Dr Wright is an associate in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment and a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow. His research draws on his background in neuroscience to explore political decision making in economics and nuclear security.

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