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Cake or Carrots? Timing May Decide What You'll Nosh On
When you open the refrigerator for a late-night snack, are you more likely to grab a slice of chocolate cake or a bag of carrot sticks? Your ability to exercise self-control—i.e., to settle for the carrots—may depend upon just how quickly your brain factors healthfulness into a decision. Read More 12.15.2014

Research Update: An Autism Connection
Caltech neuroscientists find link between agenesis of the corpus callosum and autism. Read More 04.28.2014

Pinpointing the Brainís Arbitrator
Neuroscientists find link between agenesis of the corpus callosum and autism. Researchers have pinpointed areas of the brain—the inferior lateral prefrontal cortex and frontopolar cortex—that seem to serve as this "arbitrator" between the two decision-making systems, weighing the reliability of the predictions each makes and then allocating control accordingly. The results appear in the current issue of the journal Neuron. According to John O'Doherty, the study's principal investigator and director of the Caltech Brain Imaging Center, understanding where the arbitrator is located and how it works could eventually lead to better treatments for brain disorders, such as drug addiction, and psychiatric disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder. - Read More 04.28.2014


Assessing Others: Evaluating the Expertise of Humans and Computer Algorithms
How do we come to recognize expertise in another person and integrate new information with our prior assessments of that person's ability? The brain mechanisms underlying these sorts of evaluations—which are relevant to how we make decisions ranging from whom to hire, whom to marry, and whom to elect to Congress—are the subject of a new study by a team of neuroscientists. In the study, published in the journal Neuron, Antonio Rangel, Bing Professor of Neuroscience, Behavioral Biology, and Economics, and his associates used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to monitor the brain activity of volunteers as they moved through a particular task. Specifically, the subjects were asked to observe the shifting value of a hypothetical financial asset and make predictions about whether it would go up or down. Simultaneously, the subjects interacted with an "expert" who was also making predictions. Read More 12.27.2013

Focusing on Faces
Ralph Adolphs has made the first recordings of the firings of single neurons in the brains of autistic individuals, and has found specific neurons in a region called the amygdala that show reduced processing of the eye region of faces. Read More 11.20.2013


Caltech Neuroscientists Show How Brain Responds to Sensual Caress
A nuzzle of the neck, a stroke of the wrist, a brush of the knee—these caresses often signal a loving touch, but can also feel highly aversive, depending on who is delivering the touch, and to whom. Interested in how the brain makes connections between touch and emotion, neuroscientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have discovered that... Read More 06.04.2012

Why Do People Choke When the Stakes Are High?
In sports, on a game show, or just on the job, what causes people to choke when the stakes are high? A new study by researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) suggests that when there are high financial incentives to succeed, people can become so afraid of losing their potentially lucrative reward that their performance suffers. Read More 05.09.2012

Inside the Brains of Jurors
When jurors consider shortening the prison sentences of convicted criminals, they use parts of the brain associated with sympathy and making moral judgments, according to new work by Caltech neuroeconomist Colin Camerer and colleagues. They found that the most lenient jurors show heightened levels of activity in a brain region associated with discomfort, pain, and imagining the pain that others feel. Read More 03.27.2012


Watson Lecture: "Neuroeconomics: How Does Your Brain Make Decisions?" by Antonio Rangel, Professor of Neuroscience and Economics
Salad or steak? Work, family, or play? Stop or have another drink? All of those decisions are made, often effectively, by processes imbedded in our brains - but sometimes in self-defeating ways. Neuroeconomics studies the computations made by the brain to make different types of decisions, how those computations are implemented by the brain, and what the differences are between the brains of good and bad decision makers. View this Watson Lecture on iTunes U! 10.12.2011


Antonio Rangel, Professor of Neuroscience and Economics, graduate student Benjamin Bushong, Colin Camerer, Robert Kirby Professor of Behavioral Economics, and Lindsay King, a Caltech graduate, asked the question "Does the form in which an item is presented to consumers affect their willingness to pay for it?" and their investigation showed that consumers will pay more for goods they can touch. Learn More... 09.10.2010

Vidhya Navalpakkam, Postdoctoral Scholar in Biology; Christof Koch, Lois and Victor Troendle Professor of Cognitive and Behavioral Biology and Professor of Computation and Neural Systems; Antonio Rangel, Associate Professor of Economics; and Pietro Perona, Allen E. Puckett Professor of Electrical Engineering, have found that the brain combines value and visual saliency information rapidly and near-optimally to perform maximal reward harvesting while seeking multiple targets in the environment. This finding has implications for how consumers may make fast choices in shopping displays. Read More... 04-2-2010

Scientists Find First Physiological Evidence of Brain's Response to Inequality
The human brain is a big believer in equality—and a team of scientists have become the first to gather the images to prove it. Read more... 2-24-2010

Neuroscientists Discover Brain Area Responsible for Fear of Losing Money
Benedetto de Martino, a Caltech visiting researcher from University College London and first author on the study, along with Caltech scientists Colin Camerer, the Robert Kirby Professor of Behavioral Economics, and Ralph Adolphs, the Bren Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience and professor of biology have tied the human aversion to losing money to a specific structure in the brain—the amygdala. Read more... 2-8-2010


Research shows how brain imaging can be used to create new and improved solutions to the public-goods provision problem
Economists and neuroscientists have shown that they can use information obtained through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) measurements of whole-brain activity to create feasible, efficient, and fair solutions to one of the stickiest dilemmas in economics, the public goods free-rider problem-long thought to be unsolvable. Read more... 9-10-2009

Caltech Neuroscientists Find Brain Region Responsible for Our Sense of Personal Space
In a finding that sheds new light on the neural mechanisms involved in social behavior, neuroscientists have pinpointed the brain structure responsible for our sense of personal space. Read more... 8-30-2009

Researchers Pinpoint the Mechanisms of Self-Control in the Brain
Study of dieters shows how two brain areas interact in people with the willpower to say no to unhealthy foods. Read more... 4-30-2009

Colin Camerer Makes a Game of Economic Theory
"Economics is the field that has used game theory the most broadly to understand bargaining, pricing, firm competition, incentive contracts, and more," explains Camerer, who is the Robert Kirby Professor of Behavioral Economics. "Almost all the analysis, however, assumes people plan ahead and carefully figure out what others will do, which often results in mathematical claims that are highly unrealistic cognitively." Read more... 2-15-2009


Caltech-Led Researchers Find Negative Cues from Appearance Alone Matter for Real Elections Brain-imaging studies reveal that voting decisions are more associated with the brain's response to negative aspects of a politician's appearance than to positive ones. "While these findings are certainly very provocative, it is important to note their limitations," says study senior author Ralph Adolphs, Bren Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience and professor of biology at Caltech, and director of the Caltech Brain Imaging Center. Read more... 10-29-2008

Scientists Find Our Eyes Evolved for 'X-Ray' Vision
Research by Mark Changizi and Professor Shinsuke Shimojo on binocular vision has revealed a type of x-ray vision that "sees through" objects. Says Changizi, "As long as the separation between our eyes is wider than the width of the objects causing clutter, we can generally see through it." Read more... 09-4-2008

Caltech Neurobiologists Discover Individuals Who "Hear" Movement Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have discovered a type of synesthesia in which individuals hear sounds. Psychologists previously reported visual, tactile, and taste synesthesias, but auditory synesthesia had never been identified. Caltech lecturer in computation and neural systems Melissa Saenz discovered the phenomenon quite by accident. Saenz, who, along with Christof Koch, the Lois and Victor Troendle Professor of Cognitive and Behavioral Biology at Caltech and professor of computation and neural systems, reports the finding in the August 5 issue of the journal Current Biology. Read More... 08-06-2008

Caltech and UNC Research Finds Further Evidence for Genetic Contribution to Autism Some parents of children with autism evaluate facial expressions differently than the rest of us--and in a way that is strikingly similar to autistic patients themselves, according to new research by neuroscientist Ralph Adolphs of the California Institute of Technology and psychiatrist Joe Piven at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Read More... 07-15-2008

Caltech Scientists Decipher the Neurological Basis of Timely Movement Work by Dr. Richard A. Andersen, the James G. Boswell Professor of Neuroscience at Caltech, and his colleagues Grant Mulliken of MIT and Sam Musallam of McGill University, offers the first neural evidence that voluntary limb movements are guided by our brain's prediction of what will happen an instant into the future. Read More... 06-09-2008

Caltech Researchers Reveal the Neuronal Computations Governing Strategic Social Interactions in the Human Brain In a strategic game, the success of any player depends not just on his or her own actions, but on the behavior of every other player in the game. To be successful, players must not only pay attention to what other players do, but also how they are thinking. Understanding how the brain functions during this strategizing is at "the core of studies of adaptive social intelligence," says John P. O'Doherty of the California Institute of Technology and the subject of a recent series of brain studies by O'Doherty and his colleagues that offer new insight into how the brain works in social situations. Read more... 05-19-2008

Sight Recovery After Blindness Offers New Insights on Brain Reorganization Studies of the brains of blind persons whose sight was partially restored later in life have produced a compelling example of the brain's ability to adapt to new circumstances and rewire and reconfigure itself. The research, conducted by postdoctoral researcher Melissa Saenz of the California Institute of Technology along with Christof Koch, the Lois and Victor Troendle Professor of Cognitive and Behavioral Biology and professor of computation and neural systems, and their colleagues, shows that the part of the brain that processes visual information in normal individuals can be co-opted to respond to both visual and auditory information. That brain reorganization persists even if the blind subjects later regain their vision—for example, through technologies such as corneal stem-cell transplants, retinal prosthetics, and gene therapy. Read more... 05-15-2008

How Fairness Is Wired in the Brain Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have discovered that reason struggles with emotion to find equitable solutions, and have pinpointed the region of the brain where this takes place. The concept of fairness, they found, is processed in the insular cortex, or insula, which is also the seat of emotional reactions. "The fact that the brain has such a robust response to unfairness suggests that sensing unfairness is a basic evolved capacity," notes Steven Quartz, an associate professor of philosophy at Caltech and author of the study, voicing a sentiment that anyone who has seen children fight over a treat can relate to. Read more... 05-08-2008

Locating a "Free Choice" Brain Circuit Your brain gets a better workout when you change your routine. Richard Andersen, Bijan Pesaran, a former Caltech postdoc, and Matthew Nelson, a Caltech graduate student in CNS, pinpointed one particular circuit that activates your ability to execute a decision. Read more... 04-16-2008

Christof Koch, the Troendle Professor of Cognitive and Behavioral Biology and Professor of Computation and Neural Systems, and his colleagues, have found that changes in pupil diameter correspond to the moment when a simple decision is made. The pupil, which is about 2 mm wide in bright light, dilated by as much as 1 mm at that moment—a change that, in theory, could be noticeable to a casual observer. Read more... 02-12-2008

Wine Study Shows Price Influences Perception Antonio Rangel, Associate Professor of Economics, and colleagues found that changes in the stated price of a sampled wine influenced not only how good volunteers thought it tasted, but the activity of a brain region that is involved in our experience of pleasure. View press release... 01-14-2008

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