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Neuronal reward processing, learning and neuroeconomics

Supervisor: Wolfram Schultz

Rewards produce learning, constitute goals of behaviour and are outcomes of decisions. We investigate reward issues in individuals acting on their own and in social contexts. We investigate main reward structures, including dopamine neurons, striatum, amygdala, orbitofrontal, cingulate and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. We achieve these aims with neurophysiological experiments in animals performing controlled tasks designed on the basis of psychological learning theories and economic decision theories. Closely related neuroimaging experiments extend this work to humans. This research will reveal basic reward, risk and decision signals, impact on theories of normal behaviour and provide necessary knowledge for investigating pathological reward and risk processes in addiction, gambling and mental disorders. Desired knowledge by PhD candidates would be as much as possible of the following list: quantitative behavioural testing, psychophysics, basic knowledge in Matlab or similar computer language (Pascal, C++, Fortran, Pyton, etc), good capture of systems neuroscience, electrophysiology or fMRI imaging.

Relevant references

Stauffer, Lak & Schultz, Current Biology 24: 2491-2500, 2014 (neuronal utility signal).

Genest, Stauffer & Schultz, PNAS 113: 8402-8407, 2016 (behavioural risk attitude).

Zangemeister, Grabenhorst & Schultz, Current Biology 2016 in press (human imaging of economic saving sequences).

 

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