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Research in the Decision Neuroscience Laboratory focuses when and how neural correlates of valuation and choice emerge during the decision process. Working with collaborators at Caltech and USC, we are investigating the temporal dynamics of decision-making in various tasks, including dietary decisions and financial trading.

Temporal Dynamics of Basic Decision-Making

A growing consensus of neuroeconomic researrch suggests that simple choice involves assigning values to the options under consideration, and then comparing these values to select the best one. Converging electrophysiological and neuroimaging data suggest that one region particularly important for this process is the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). Associated with subjective measures of value across a variety of goods and paradigms, vmPFC is hypothesized to form part of a neural circuitry that computes a "common currency."

Yet many questions remain about when and how value signals integrate information about sensory attributes, top-down goals, and other factors such as effort cost. We have identified neural correlates of subjective value beginning from approximately 400-450 ms after stimulus onset at frontotemporal and central sensors. Localized to regions including vmPFC, this value-related activity appears to reflect integation of sensory attributes, as well as current decision goals (Harris et al., 2011; Harris et al., in prep).