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The Mechanics Behind The Brain’s Decision Making

Each and every action that we perform during the entire day is first processed by our brain. The brain plays a very important role in making eminent decisions for us. These effortful decisions such as to switch off the TV and go to sleep; choosing to move out of bed rather than snoozing the alarm etc. are made by the brain making use of a particular kind of mechanics.

According to Michael Treadway, a psychologist at the Emory University, it is the brain's ventromedial prefrontal cortex that plays a key role in effort-based choices. As per the researches conducted earlier, it was revealed that ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) is central to the computation of subjective value during probability decision-making. On the other hand there are evidences that suggest that as far as the decisions about effort expenditure are concerned, the subjective value estimates were not computed by the vmPFC but by the other two brain regions.Arulpragasam developed a study that allowed the researchers to model distinct neural computations for effort and reward. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was conducted on various persons while performing an effort-based decision-making task where the effort costs and rewards of a choice were put forward separately over time in front of them. The subjects were given an options to make no effort and receive $1, or make some level of physical effort in return for monetary rewards of different magnitude, up to $5.73. After being provided with both the sets of information, participants were asked to make choice between the no-effort option and the effort option. The results showed a clear role for the vmPFC in encoding an expected reward before all information had been provided. The data also infers that the dACC and aI are involved in encoding the difference between what participants were expecting and what they actually got, rather than effort-cost encoding.

By: Anuja Arora


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