Center for Cognitive Neuroscience
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Laboratory of Michael L. Platt, Ph.D.MainPublications
Cognition—complex patterns of attention, emotion, social interaction, and decision-making—ultimately reflects the operation of brain mechanisms that evolved to deal with the behavioral problems humans and other animals have confronted in their natural environments during their evolutionary history. Research in the Platt Lab uses principles of behavioral economics and evolutionary ecology, coupled with neurobiological techniques, to study these brain mechanisms. Our goal is to develop methods to create real-world behavioral contexts in the laboratory in a way that permits rigorous biological investigation. To do this, we examine the ways in which information about the current state of the world gathered by the senses is combined with estimates of costs and benefits, uncertainty, social context, as well as individual-specific variables like internal state, social status, and risk tolerance to guide behavior in monkeys, adult and developing humans, mice, and other animals. These studies are organized and implemented using an economic framework that formalizes the allocation of scarce resources to maximize benefits and minimize costs—the ultimate arbiter of evolution by natural selection. We use observations made of humans and animals in the real world to frame our hypotheses. By establishing that similar principles guide behavior in these species, we can more readily apply knowledge gained in nonhuman animals to humans. Studying similar behaviors in monkeys, humans, mice, and other animals, using complementary techniques, offers promise in understanding the neural circuitry responsible for complex cognitively-guided behavior. Our work also tries to understand how these mechanisms break down in mental disorders such as autism, addiction, pathological gambling, social anxiety, and schizophrenia, and may provide guidance for policy development and implementation in finance, trade, and individualized investment strategies.

B243F Levine Science Research Center
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