Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

A new study led by Department of Physiology, Anatomy & Genetics suggests that we learn best when we make decisions outside of our comfort zone, and sheds light on how the brain might achieve this.

How the brain learns from making difficult decisions
The dopamine neurons (green) light up when animals win a difficult choice, teaching them to make better decisions in the future.

Making the best decisions in our ever-changing world requires learning. Evolution rewards those of us who rapidly learn from wins and from mistakes. So how does the brain learn to make good decisions in the face of uncertainty?

A new paper led by Dr Armin Lak (Department of Physiology, Anatomy & Genetics) and colleagues at UCL suggests learning mainly happens when we are not confident about the outcome, and illustrates the brain signals that underlie this.

Several studies have explored how humans make decisions. Some have focused on sensory decisions; how decisions are made when the stimulus is either clear or unclear, affecting confidence in the outcome. Others have focused on reward value; how economic decisions are made based on the value of rewards. This new study from Lak et al brings these two considerations together by changing both the strength of sensory signals as well as the reward value, and does so for the first time in mice, allowing for harnessing advanced tools to examine brain activity during decision making.

Read more (Department of Physiology, Anatomy & Genetics)

Similar stories

PRINCIPLE trial finds antibiotics azithromycin and doxycycline not generally effective treatments for COVID-19

Coronavirus COVID-19 General Research

In March 2020, the UK-wide Platform Randomised trial of INterventions against COVID-19 In older people (PRINCIPLE) trial was established as a flexible, platform randomised clinical trial to test a range of potential treatments for COVID-19 that might be suitable for use in the community to help people recover more quickly and prevent the need for hospital admission. The trial is one of three national platform trials for COVID-19 treatments, and complements the RECOVERY and REMAP-CAP trials that focus on hospitalised patients.

Just over half of British Indians would take COVID vaccine

Coronavirus COVID-19 General Research

University of Oxford researchers from the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics (DPAG) and the Department of Psychiatry, in collaboration with The 1928 Institute, have published a major new study on the impact of COVID-19 on the UK’s largest BME population.

Investigating New Treatment for Schizophrenia

General Innovation Research

A partnership between University of Oxford, the Earlham Institute, and the global pharmaceutical companies Biogen Inc and Boehringer Ingelheim is announced today to investigate a new drug target for the treatment of schizophrenia.

Parental mental health worsens under new national COVID-19 restrictions

Coronavirus COVID-19 General Research

Parental stress, depression and anxiety have again increased since new national restrictions have been introduced, according to the latest report from the Oxford University-led COVID-19 Supporting Parents, Adolescents, and Children in Epidemics (Co-SPACE) study, based on data from over 6000 UK parents.