Behavioral & Social Neuroscience California Institute of Technology

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Welcome to the
Behavioral and Social Neuroscience
Option at Caltech
Behavioral and Social Neuroscience is an interdisciplinary research program and graduate studies option at the California Institute of Technology.

What do we do?
BSN is composed of a diverse mix of faculty members, post-doctoral researchers and graduate students from a number of different disciplines interested in addressing the big overarching question of why humans and other animals behave the way they do in dynamic and rapidly changing real-world environments. The types of problems we study range from determining how is it that people make simple choices, such as when deliberating between food options on a restaurant menu, include questions such as how it is we can learn from past trial and error behavior to make decisions in the future, what are the factors governing how we interact socially with others, up to establishing how financial markets operate  and the factors influencing decision making in the political process. A core unifying assumption underlying all of this research in BSN is the idea that only by establishing the nature of the computations being implemented by neural systems deep within our brains will it possible to gain insight into how individuals, groups and societies function. To study these problems, we build on theories, concepts and approaches from a variety of traditional disciplines including Psychology, Economics, Cognitive and Systems Neuroscience, Computer Science and Political Science. We also use a wide array of techniques to study behavior and brain function, including computational modeling, single- and multi-unit neurophysiology, functional brain imaging and EEG, psychophysiology, psychophysics, transcranial magnetic stimulation and lesion approaches. For more details on what we do click here.

Graduate Studies in BSN
The BSN option is a graduate option available at Caltech in which graduate students can gain the basic skills needed to be able to perform research in this interdiscplinary area, including exposure to core constructs in economics, psychology and computational neuroscience, and experience with basic techniques such as computational modeling, functional neuroimaging and neuropsychological assessment. For more details on the graduate program click here.


In the News

Creating Generosity
Researchers used functional brain imaging to study neural activity in test subjects during generous or selfish choices that involve monetary rewards. They found that altruistic behavior could be explained and predicted by a simple computational model in which individuals make choices by weighting the impact of their decisions on themselves and others. Read More 07.30.2015

Do Fruit Flies Have Emotions?
Using fruit flies to study the basic components of emotion, a new Caltech study reports that a fly's response to a shadowy overhead stimulus might be analogous to a negative emotional state such as fear—a finding that could one day help us understand the neural circuitry involved in human emotion. Read More 05.14.2015

Doris Tsao Named Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has selected Doris Tsao as one of 26 new HHMI investigators. Investigators represent some of the nation's top biomedical researchers and receive five years of funding to "move their research in creative new directions." Read More 05.20.2015

Switching On One-Shot Learning in the Brain
Caltech researchers find the brain regions responsible for jumping to conclusions. Read More 05.20.2015

> go to News Archive

Seminar Information
Seminar announcements? Join the announcements email list.

Financial support from the NSF and Betty and Gordon Moore Foundation is gratefully acknowledged.
The Behavioral and Social Neuroscience degree program is organized jointly by the Division of Biology, the Division of Engineering and Applied Science, and the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences.



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