Probing how the brain makes decisions and expands that knowledge to influence public policy and economic decisions.
The choices we make define the quality of our lives as well as that of future generations. In response to changing environmental conditions, organisms ranging from mice to humans must continually make choices that increase their chances of continuation and survival. Key neural mechanisms that support choice have thus been evolutionarily conserved and can be examined across species at multiple levels of analysis. Establishing strong conceptual and substantive links that bridge these levels of analysis -- from neural circuits to individual choice to group tendencies -- could spark major advances both in basic neuroscience research and in the application of neuroscientific findings to enduring social problems. This proposal brings together faculty from diverse disciplines to deepen our understanding of the neural mechanisms supporting choice, and extend this knowledge to optimize choices related to addiction and investment. This consilience will require new conceptual and experimental tools designed to bridge historically distant fields of inquiry. Our team aims to transform the scientific understanding of choice, and to translate relevant knowledge to promote more optimal decision-making. We will also engage with public and private policymakers whose work might be informed by neuroscientific evidence, and who might reciprocally help identify promising new directions for high impact research.