Speaker: Prof. Christian Ruff, University of Zurich

Time: 10:00-11:30, Oct. 8th, 2019

Venue: #1113, Wangkezhen Building, Peking University

Abstract: Arousal-related fluctuations of cortical activity are ubiquitous in the mammalian brain and vary spontaneously with neuromodulatory catecholamine levels. How such endogenous changes in brain state impact on behaviour is incompletely understood. In this talk, I will present recent studies in which we investigate how arousal affects goal-directed and exploratory decision-making. Our data show that arousal-related brain state fluctuations, indexed by pre-stimulus pupil dilation, optimize decision making by enhancing choice-relevant neural evidence representation. Moreover, arousal levels also predict to what extent behavior and neural activity focusses on exploitation of valuable choice options or exploration about alternative courses of action. Finally, I will present a study showing that the basic responsitivity of the human arousal system can predict to what degree individuals will be taxed by real-life stress. Together, our data emphasize that noradrenergic arousal levels play a central role in determining both the effectiveness and the explorativeness of our current decision making. Understanding the causes and consequences of these endogenous changes in brain state therefore has considerable implications for understanding the neural basis of human decision making in the healthy and diseased brain.

Bio: Prof. Christian Ruff is Full Professor of Laboratory for Social and Neural Systems Research and Department of Economics, University of Zurich. He got his PhD degree in Cognitive Neuroscience from UCL, London. Prof. Christian Ruff's main research interests lie in the neural mechanism of perception, economic and social decision-making. He has published more than 150 papers on journals, including Science, Nature Neuroscience etc. Please refer to the attachment for details.

Host: Prof. Xiaolin Zhou