Making Choices: How Your Brain Decides

Interesting study on decision making, particularly in light of psychiatric disorders.

Health & Family

Every day, we face thousands of decisions both major and minor — from whether to eat that decadent chocolate cupcake to when to pursue a new romantic relationship or to change careers. How does the brain decide? A new study suggests that it relies on two separate networks to do so: one that determines the overall value — the risk versus reward — of individual choices and another that guides how you ultimately behave.

“Cognitive control and value-based decision-making tasks appear to depend on different brain regions within the prefrontal cortex,” says Jan Glascher, lead author of the study and a visiting associate at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, referring to the seat of higher-level reasoning in the brain.

Study co-author Ralph Adolphs, a professor of psychology at Caltech, explains the distinction by way of a grocery shopping example: “Your valuation network is always providing you with information…

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