Animals are faced with many decisions. They must integrate information from a variety of sources – sensory inputs like smell and sound as well as memories and innate impulses – to arrive at a single behavioral output. My laboratory investigates the neural circuits that underlie decision-making.
The study of decision-making provides a window into the family of brain functions that constitute cognition. It intervenes between perception and action and can link one to the other. Although much is known about sensory processing and motor control, much less is known about the circuitry connecting them. Some of the most interesting circuits are those that make it possible to deliberate among different interpretations of sensory information before making a choice about what to do. Anne Churchland’s lab investigates the neural machinery underlying decision-making. Lab members use carefully designed paradigms that encourage experimental subjects to deliberate over incoming sensory evidence before making a decision. Recent results show that rats and humans have a statistically similar decision-making ability. To connect this behavior to its underlying neural circuitry, the researchers measure electrophysiological responses of cortical neurons in rodents as they perform designated tasks. The lab’s current focus is on parietal cortex, which appears to be at the midpoint between sensory processing and motor planning. Churchland and colleagues also use theoretical models of varying complexity to further constrain how observed neural responses might drive behavior. This approach generates insights into sensory processing, motor planning, and complex cognitive function.
2012 Trubatch Career Development Award
The difference between an expert’s brain and a novice’s
November 18, 2019
Researchers use computational models to observe how changing neural activity can help mice learn new tasks and make better decisions.
Mice, like humans, fidget when deep in thought
September 24, 2019
Mice seemed to fidget while making decisions, prompting neuroscientists to think more about the connection between movement and cognition.
Of mice and model organisms
July 31, 2019
An in-depth look at how veterinarians at CSHL help take care of the various organisms that help researchers answer fundamental biological questions.
Watson School 2019 Ph.D.s
May 19, 2019
Seven students were awarded Ph.D. degrees from Watson School this May. Here, they reflect on their time at the Laboratory as they look to the future.
From many mice, unexpected genius
November 2, 2018
A massive study of mouse behavior has revealed that some individual animals are far more clever than studying only a small group might imply.
From many mice, unexpected genius
October 31, 2018
Researchers find that some individual mice are smarter than their fellow rodents, which can provide insights into decision-making.
Being a scientist means being part of a team
June 12, 2018
High school senior Jerinna Solages learns what it’s really like to do scientific research in CSHL’s Partners for the Future program.
Portrait of a Neuroscience Powerhouse
April 27, 2018
A relatively small neuroscience group at CSHL is having an outsized impact on a dynamic and highly competitive field
Dr. Anne Churchland honored with Marshall Award for promoting women in science
December 11, 2017
Associate Professor Anne Churchland was honored with The Louise Hanson Marshall Special Recognition Award.
New leadership roles in BRAIN Initiative and International Brain Lab reflect CSHL’s excellence in neuroscience
October 24, 2017
The BRAIN Initiative Cell Census Network establishes a Center and a Collaboratory for the Mouse Brain Cell Atlas at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
In other news
How do brains make decisions? Dr. Churchland tells us why understanding decision-making is important, and outlines common approaches to study it. The video is available on iBiology.org at https://www.ibiology.org/neuroscience/decision-making/