The brain is often compared to a computer. But the two are not as similar as one would think. Computers process information whereas the brain interrogates and explores. It seeks information from the environment with a purpose—to answer a question, solve a problem or make a decision. Neuroscience has made great advances in our understanding of how the brain makes decisions, why some are speedy and some are slower and more deliberative. Decisions matter for all animals. For humans, they hold the key to thought, ideation and creative expression. What was once the purview of psychology and philosophy is now a staple of biomedical science. And by elucidating the underlying neural mechanisms that make all this possible, Dr. Shadlen hopes to identify new strategies to confront the neurological and psychiatric disorders that impair cognitive function.
Michael N. Shadlen, MD, PhD is a Professor of Neuroscience and Principal Investigator at Columbia's Zuckerman Institute. Dr. Shadlen argues that the brain follows simple rules to make both simple and complex decisions. To test this, he studies the brain’s parietal cortex, which helps the brain make sense of what we see in order to guide our behaviors. With implications for medicine, his research could shed light on why people with damage to the parietal cortex have trouble with various skills, such as understanding numbers. It could also lead to new ways to treat the effects of this damage.
This talk will take place in the Presidential Ballroom on the Third Floor of Columbia University's Faculty House.
This talk is part of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Brain Insight Lecture series, offered free to the public to enhance understanding of the biology of the mind and the complexity of human behavior. The lectures are hosted by Columbia’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute and supported by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.