Researchers pinpoint brain area critical for coming to conclusions.
This video, hugely magnified and sped up 20 times, shows a mouse making a decision.
In a paper published in the journal Cell, researchers led by Takaki Komiyama from the University of California San Diego report that data gathered regarding the function of tens of thousands of neurons has revealed a brain area called the retrosplenial cortex, or RSC, as the location for "value-based decision-making".
This form of decision-making is crucial for reliable functioning in all complex animals. The neurons in the RSC encode experience-based information which serve as the basis for future decisions. In humans, for instance, it is where the brain stores information about the quality of local restaurants – providing a set of benchmarks against which to make decisions about where to eat.
Loss of value-based decision-making ability is often a product of neurological impairment arising from dementia, or addiction, or head injury. Locating the brain area responsible for the function may provide potential treatment targets.
“How the brain maintains this value information--and how it might be different in healthy and disease states--could be relevant in clinical applications,” says Komiyama.