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Introduction to Neuroeconomics: How the Brain Makes Decisions

Учебный год
Обучение ведется на английском языке
Курс обязательный
Когда читается:
3-й курс, 3 модуль

Course Syllabus


Economics, psychology, and neuroscience are converging today into a unified discipline of Neuroeconomics with the ultimate aim of creating a single, general theory of human decision-making. Neuroeconomics provides biologists, economists, psychologists and social scientists with a deeper understanding of how they make their own decisions and how others decide. Neuroscience, when allied with psychology and economics, creates powerful new models to explain why we make decisions. Neurobiological mechanisms of decision-making, decisions under risk, trust and cooperation will be central issues in this course. You will be provided with the most recent evidence from brain-imaging techniques (fMRI, TMS, etc.) and introduced to the explanatory models behind them. The course does not require any prior study of economics and neuroscience; however, it might require you to study novel interdisciplinary materials. The course provides an introduction to the methodology, assumptions, and main findings of Neuroeconomics. Our students have different backgrounds; therefore, I have adapted and simplified the course to allow all students to understand the interdisciplinary content. This course will help you to start your progress in the field of Neuroeconomics and to further develop your skills during other more advanced courses and trainings in the future. For some topics, the course will also provide supplementary videos to reveal the opinions of leading experts in the field. Each module provides optional reading material.
Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

  • In this class, students will learn how standard assumptions of economic theory could be relaxed to achieve greater psychological realism. The models developed in this class will give students theoretical insight into problems arising in economics and business and enable them to make better predictions and policy suggestions. After this class, students should be able to design and run an experiment in behavioral economics. Students will develop the ability to read academic journal articles in behavioral economics and present methods and findings of these articles.
Expected Learning Outcomes

Expected Learning Outcomes

  • To know the main objectives of neuroscience as a dicipline.
  • To use the terms of neurosicence accordingly their meaning.
  • To know methods to measure brain activity
  • To evaluate papers on neuroeconomics and be able to interprete the results of academic studies in the area
  • To apply Diffusion Model in the research design
  • To interprete the decision making process through the optics of neuroscience
  • To be able to apply basic concepts of representation and subjective value in research
  • To describe human behaviour using the concept of emotion
  • To be able to discuss the papers applying dual process theory as a theoretical background
  • To use theoretical approaches of dual process theory to create research design for own study
  • To be able to discuss and apply the concept of risk in research on neuroeconomics
  • To use the approaches of neuroeconomics describing and analysing social situations
  • To be able to distinct different types of behaviour mechanisms involving decision making
  • To be familiar with comparative studies identifying shared versus human-unique tendencies in decision-making
Course Contents

Course Contents

  • Introduction and Scope of Neuroeconomics
    Introduction to the course. Goals and objectives of the course are set. Interdisciplinarity as a characteristic of neuroeconomics. Brain science, psychology and economics - is synthesis possible? Decision making as an object of study. History of neuroeconomics. Basic concepts of neuroeconomics.
  • Neuroanatomy, Neurophysiology, and Neuroimaging: Tools of Neuroeconomics
    Introduction to cognitive neuroscience, brain anatomy, and brain functions and continue with a discussion of various methods of measuring brain activity, including brain imaging methods (EEG, MEG, fMRI), transcranial brain stimulation (TMS), cell recording, and data visualization, and interpretation of the results. The main goal of this lecture is to help you read and understand results of Neuroeconomics papers. Terminology and experimental methods that we will use throughout the whole course are introduced
  • Introducing Brain Models of Decision-Making and Choice
    Topic is covering the main features of the Diffusion Model, the most popular theoretical model of decision-making in Neuroeconomics. We will apply this model to single-neuron activity in a monkey cortex and to the human brain in order to understand how brains program decisions. For advanced students, an online guest lecture provided by Dr.Sebastian Horn (Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin), who gives a more fundamental explanation of the drift diffusion model.
  • Neural Representation of Subjective Value
    Topic discuss how neurons assign values to different options during the decision-making process. We will also discuss the central role of the nucleus accumbens and orbitofrontal cortex in the valuation process. To make adaptive decisions, we must evaluate the costs and benefits of available options. Neuroeconomics has set itself the ambitious goal of understanding the brain mechanisms that are responsible for these evaluative processes. Neuroeconomics has also focused on describing the neural signals related to learning the value of stimuli and actions.
  • Affective Mechanisms of Decision-Making
    . The influence of emotions on decision-making is largely ignored in decision theories. Our objective in this lecture is to explore the role of emotion in decision-making and to introduce theories and basic findings of Neuroeconomics in this context. For example, the neuroeconomic studies of decision-making in neurological patients who can no longer process emotional information normally suggest that people make judgments based not only on evaluations of the values of options and probabilities of outcomes but often primarily on emotions.
  • Dual Process Theory of Decision-Making: Toward a Neuroeconomics Perspective
    Studies in Neuroeconomics have found evidence suggesting that the brain may employ multiple levels of processing when making decisions, and this conclusion is consistent with dual-processing theories that have received extensive theoretical consideration in the field of cognitive psychology. During this lecture, we will discuss the classic and cutting-edge research studies supporting dual process theory. Additionally, recommend for students to attend the online guest lecture provided by Dr. Samuel McClure (Stanford University), who is a leading neuroeconomist investigating dual-process mechanisms.
  • Decision-Making under Risk: Toward a Neuroeconomics Mechanism
    Many of our decisions involve uncertainty or imperfect knowledge about how our choices lead to outcomes. The important aspect of uncertainty most commonly considered by economists and neuroeconomists is risk, which refers to situations in which we know the probabilities of possible outcomes. For example, if you play roulette in Monte Carlo, you are making a decision under risk since you know the probability of winning and thus how much you should expect to lose. Here I will introduce a neuroeconomic approach to studying decisions under risk and an anticipatory affect model suggesting that the balance of activity in the set brain areas (insular cortex and nucleus accumbens) promotes either approach toward or avoidance of risk. Additionally, Dr. Brian Knutson (Stanford University) provides his comments on the functional role of the nucleus accumbens in a guest lecture.
  • The Social Brain: Games in the Brain
    Ancient Greek philosophers observed that we are fundamentally a social species. Indeed, the human brain has evolved to deal with complex social interactions. Day by day, we collectively analyze problems or situations and evaluate alternative courses of action within social groups. Game theory has proven useful in the investigation of the neural basis of social interactions and social decision-making. In particular, researchers have investigated what happens in the brains of subjects involved in games where each player can choose between cooperative and non-cooperative behaviors or between altruistic and selfish behaviors. Here we will apply game theory to studying the neural mechanism of decisions to cooperate or to defect. Mirror neurons mechanism of social interaction are introduced.
  • Evolutionary Perspective of Decision-Making
    Neuroeconomics investigates the origins of human decision-making by examining whether similar choice biases are seen in nonhuman primates, our closest phylogenetic relatives. Comparative studies can identify shared versus human-unique tendencies in decision-making. Here we will compare animal and human decision-making mechanisms. Also the theory of biological markets is introduced. At the beginning of the lecture, students will discuss the ontogenetic origin of human cooperation.
Assessment Elements

Assessment Elements

  • non-blocking Test. Introduction and Scope of Neuroeconomics
  • non-blocking Essay. Do people have Free Will...?
  • non-blocking Test. Neuroanatomy and Neurophysiology
  • non-blocking Test. Decision-Making
  • non-blocking Critical review: Diffusion model
  • non-blocking Test. The Nucleus Accumbens
  • non-blocking Test. Emotional Stimuli
  • non-blocking Test. Homework test: The dark side of emotion in decision-making
  • non-blocking Test. Valuation System
  • non-blocking Test. Risk
  • non-blocking Essay. Ethical limitations in Neuroeconomics
  • non-blocking Test. Neuroeconomics, Game Theory and decision-making in groups
  • non-blocking Test. Cooperation
  • non-blocking Essay. Biological mechanisms of decisions: The role of testosterone in decision-making
  • non-blocking Final Exam
Interim Assessment

Interim Assessment

  • Interim assessment (3 module)
    0.04 * Critical review: Diffusion model + 0.04 * Essay. Biological mechanisms of decisions: The role of testosterone in decision-making + 0.04 * Essay. Do people have Free Will...? + 0.04 * Essay. Ethical limitations in Neuroeconomics + 0.28 * Final Exam + 0.04 * Test. Cooperation + 0.04 * Test. Decision-Making + 0.04 * Test. Emotional Stimuli + 0.04 * Test. Homework test: The dark side of emotion in decision-making + 0.04 * Test. Introduction and Scope of Neuroeconomics + 0.08 * Test. Neuroanatomy and Neurophysiology + 0.08 * Test. Neuroeconomics, Game Theory and decision-making in groups + 0.04 * Test. Risk + 0.08 * Test. The Nucleus Accumbens + 0.08 * Test. Valuation System


Recommended Core Bibliography

  • Kosslyn S. M. The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Neuroscience, Volume 2: The Cutting Edges. – Oxford University Press, 2013. – Т. 2.

Recommended Additional Bibliography

  • Ochsner K., Kosslyn S. M., Kosslyn S. M. (ed.). The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Neuroscience, Volume 1: Core Topics. – Oxford University Press, 2013. – Т. 1.