MAR 16, 2016 09:00 AM PDT

Featured Speaker - Uncertainty, choice and dopamine

Presented At Neuroscience
  • Professor, Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia
      Dr. Stan Floresco is a Professor of Psychology and member of the Brain Research Centre at the University of British Columbia, and a Fellow of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. He received his all of his postgraduate degrees from the UBC, obtaining his Ph.D in 2000. He subsequently conducted postdoctoral research in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh, after which he returned to UBC to take up a faculty position in 2003..

      Dr. Floresco has published over 90 peer-reviewed articles on his research employing behavioral and neurophysiological approaches to study neural circuits within the dopamine system that facilitate higher-order cognitive functions such as cognitive flexibility and cost/benefit decision making, and how dysfunction in these circuits may relate to psychiatric disease. He currently serves as an associate editor for the journals Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience and Neuropsychopharmacology, and in 2010, he was awarded the American Psychological Association's Early Career Award.


    We routinely face decisions requiring evaluation and choice of different actions may or may not yield different types of rewards. These situations trigger competitive decision biases that reflect interplay between different prefrontal cortical, amygdalar, striatal and habenular nodes within the brain’s dopamine system, which plays a critical role in action selection and reward processing. This lecture discusses some of the interactions between these circuits that shape decision biases and underlie conflicting urges when evaluating options that vary in terms of potential risks and rewards. Subcortical circuitry linking the amygdala and the ventral striatum appears to promote a more visceral bias towards larger, uncertain rewards, whereas prefrontal regions serve to temper these urges when riskier options become less profitable via top-down control over the amygdala. Dopamine transmission within these regions also makes dissociable, yet complementary, contributions to risk/reward judgments, promoting either exploitation of current favorable circumstances or exploration of more profitable ones when conditions change. In addition, phasic dopamine activity, regulated in part by the lateral habenula plays a key role in providing short-term information about recent outcomes that can bias subsequent choice behavior. These findings provide insight into the dynamic competition between these cortical/subcortical circuits that shape our decision biases and underlie conflicting urges when evaluating options that vary in terms of potential risks and rewards.
    Learning Objectives
    -Understand the functional connectivity between different cortical and subcortical systems that regulate different aspects of decision making in the context of reward seeking and
    -Understand how different aspects of dopamine activity (modes of transmission, different receptor subtypes) regulate distinct aspects of action selection and reward processing.

    Show Resources
    Loading Comments...