Robb Rutledge (Yale)

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Elizabeth Bowman

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The role of dopamine in decision making

The neuromodulator dopamine is believed to play multiple roles in decision making, but the neurocomputational basis of dopamine's influence on behaviour remains unclear. Through a combination of fMRI, pharmacology, and smartphone-based experiments, we find evidence that dopamine is associated with increased risk taking in a manner that does not depend on value. Surprising sounds are associated with dopamine release, and we find that surprising sounds increase risk taking in a manner that does not depend on value. Dopamine is also believed to influence willingness to exert effort. We introduce a new task to study the vigor with which actions are taken to obtain reward. We use a combination of lab, online, and smartphone-based experiments to quantify the relationship between reward and vigor across the lifespan.

Our goal is to build computational models that explain how humans learn and make decisions, and to describe the factors that determine affective states like happiness and the relationship between those states and behaviour. We explore these questions using a combination of brain scanning, pharmacology, and large-scale smartphone-based experiments in tens of thousands of people in the general population and in clinical populations.