Some people find it difficult to make decisions. In a new study, neuroeconomists from the University of Zurich now reveal that the intensity of the communication between different regions of the brain dictates whether we are indecisive or not.
It’s the same old story: You’re in a restaurant and can’t make up your mind what to order. After studying the menu for some time and many discussions, you eventually choose the steak. But you can’t relax during the meal and keep wondering whether you should have gone for the veal after all.
Such difficulties with decisions crop up in all aspects of life, not only food. However, they predominantly affect preference-based decisions, i.e. questions like «what do I prefer – melon or cherries?» Purely sensory decisions based on sensorial information such as «what is bigger – melon or cherry?» are less prone to indecisiveness.
The more intensive the information flow, the more decisive
How come some people are so uncertain of their preferences and keep making new choices while others know exactly what they like and want? A team headed by Professor Christian Ruff, a neuroeconomist from the University of Zurich, set about investigating this question.
The Zurich researchers discovered that the precision and stability of preference decisions do not only depend on the strength of the activation of one or more brain regions. Instead, the key for stable preference choices is the intensity of the communication between two areas of the brain which represent our preferences or are involved in spatial orientation and action planning.
The researchers used transcranial alternating current stimulation, a non-invasive brain stimulation method that enables generation of coordinated oscillations in the activity of particular brain regions. The test subjects did not realize that they were being stimulated.
Using this technique, the researchers intensified or reduced the information flow between the prefrontal cortex located directly below the forehead and the parietal cortex just above both ears. The test subjects had to make preference-based or purely sensory decisions about food.
«We discovered that preference-based decisions were less stable if the information flow between the two brain regions was disrupted. Our test subjects were therefore more indecisive. For the purely sensory decisions, however, there was no such effect,» explains Ruff. «Consequently, the communication between the two brain regions is only relevant if we have to decide whether we like something and not when we make decisions based on objective facts.» There was no evidence of any gender-specific effects in the experiments.
It was not possible to make the decisions more stable by intensifying the information flow. However, the study participants were young, healthy test subjects with highly developed decision-making skills. On the other hand, the results of the study could be used for therapeutic measures in the future – such as in patients who suffer from a high degree of impulsiveness and indecisiveness in the aftermath of brain disorders.
Rafael Polanıa, Marius Moisa, Alexander Opitz, Marcus Grueschow & Christian C. Ruff. The precision of value-based choices depends causally on fronto-parietal phase coupling. Nature communications, August 20, 2015. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms9090
Evelyne Brönnimann | Universität Zürich
Obstructing the ‘inner eye’
07.07.2017 | Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena
Drone vs. truck deliveries: Which create less carbon pollution?
31.05.2017 | University of Washington
3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects
A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...
Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.
For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...
What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.
To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...
The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....
A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...
21.07.2017 | Event News
19.07.2017 | Event News
12.07.2017 | Event News
24.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
24.07.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.07.2017 | Materials Sciences