Max Planck Institute for Human Development

Chocolate or vanilla ice cream, the job in Munich or the one in Berlin, sneakers or boots: People make hundreds of decisions every day—some trivial, some complex— and try to predict the influence those deci­ sions will have on their lives. The deciding brain refers back to earlier experiences and, at the same time, learns something new with each decision. Since fall 2017, a team of researchers has been examining the interplay of learn­ ing, memory, and decisionmaking pro­ cesses. They are interested in identifying the algorithms the brain uses to make decisions on the basis of previous experi­ ence. In other words, how are experiences stored in the brain so that they can be re­ trieved efficiently when decisions need to be made? Does the brain recall individual experiences or does it just determine how well a certain option worked in the past? The researchers want to understand exact­ ly how memory storage and recall works. They hope that these insights will also help to understand what happens to memory as people get older. The NeuroCode team addresses these re­ search questions by conducting behavioral experiments and using functional magne­ tic resonance imaging, a technique that makes it possible to measure brain activity while people are making decisions. The re­ searchers analyze the data collected using stateoftheart statistical methods and compare their results with the predictions of mathematical models. This combination of methods is part of the classic repertoire of a young research discipline: computati­ onal cognitive neuroscience. MPRG NeuroCode | Neuronal and Computational Basis of Learning, Decision Making, and Memory Research Group Leader: Dr. Nicolas Schuck 10