Curiosity is one of our most fundamental biological drives and it is important for many things we do in our everyday life. Imagine for example that you hear your phone beep in your pocket. Probably, you will feel the urge to check the message right away, even though the message itself likely doesn’t give you a direct reward.
Pathological gamblers have a stronger brain reaction to so-called near-miss events: losing events that come very close to a win. Neuroscientists of the Donders Institute at Radboud University show this in fMRI scans of twenty-two pathological gamblers and just as many healthy controls. The scientific journal Neuropsychopharmacology published their results last week.
Patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be quite impulsive, restless and easily distracted. In short, they often have difficulty controlling their behavior. Diminished behavioural control can result in problems at work or in someone’s social life. Although patients with ADHD often find it hard to focus at work, some can spend hours playing computer games without facing distraction. In other words, patients with ADHD appear able to control their behavior much better when they are doing something enjoyable or rewarding rather than boring.
This week, our paper “Comparative diffusion tractography of cortico-striatal motor pathways reveals differences between humans and macaques” was published online ahead of print in the Journal of Neurophysiology.
This paper compared pathways connecting two cortical motor areas – the frontal eye fields, an area supporting eye movements, and the primary motor cortex, an area supporting limb movements – with the striatum, a structure in the center of the brain, between macaque monkeys and humans. These pathways are thought to be fundamental for the control over eye and limb movements, especially in complex environments and demanding tasks.
Lucy is a new science fiction movie based on the idea that humans only use 10% of our brain capacity. From a neuroscientific point of view this idea is a myth, complete bollocks. But that is not the only theoretical flaw in the movie. As overenthusiastic neuroscientists we tried our best to separate science fiction from facts. This is our lab on Lucy.
Most people know that patients with Parkinson’s disease are impaired in their movements. But it is less well known that patients also suffer from mental problems: they find it difficult to do multiple things at the same time or to plan ahead for instance. The dopaminergic medication that they take helps them move and think. Unfortunately, in some patients, the same medication can also contribute to worrisome impulsive behavior with respect to reward, such as pathological gambling or compulsive shopping.
Guillaume Sescousse studies the biological basis of gambling addiction. Recently he was awarded a Veni NWO grant to explore an exciting new path that has thus far received little attention.
On July 10, our former lab member Marieke van der Schaaf successfully defended her thesis "Dopaminergic modulation of reward and punishment learning". The lab would like to congratulate Marieke on this great achievement.
This month I went to Colorado in the United States for a week.
The main purpose of this trip was to attend the annual Social and Affective Neuroscience Society conference, in Denver, Colorado. The conference consisted of an intense two-day program with a great list of speakers for the symposia and keynotes. I also presented a poster about my work during one of the poster sessions. Broadly speaking, my work is about how emotions influence our decisions.
Managers often get exorbitant bonuses if they do well for the company. But does a promised bonus actually help people to perform better? We now know from our research described in Psychological Science that not everyone's performance will increase when a reward is anticipated.
Our complex environment and the limited processing capacity of our brain require us to focus our attention on one thing at a time. This allows us to process a specific stream of information selectively in the presence of other information. For example at a party you can focus your attention on the voice of the person you are talking to, without actively processing all the other voices around you. Sometimes we fail to focus our attention, and get distracted. This is not always a bad thing; certain situations actually require us to redirect our attention, for example when someone calls your name. Research on attention has focused primarily on our ability to maintain our attention. In the current study we look how the brain switches our attention to novel important information.
There you are: a delicious chocolate bar or a healthy apple sitting on a plate. Which one would you choose? Being able to make decisions when faced with such choices is a major task of the brain.
Recently I went to the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, in San Diego, California. This meeting, which takes place once a year, is a great opportunity for neuroscientists all around the world to exchange their ideas and share the progress of their research. Try the picture the scene: 30 000 researchers from more than 70 countries, all gathering in a 50 000 m² convention center for 5 days, and giving more than 16 000 scientific presentations. It was my first time there, and the word that best describes it is overwhelming!!
On Nov 27, our colleague Joost Wegman successfully defended his thesis "Objects in Space" on navigational abilities. The lab would like to congratulate Joost on this wonderful achievement.
His thesis received considerable media attention in the past week. Listen back to an interview with Joost on radio 5, or check out the Radboud press release, Vox article and nu.nl for more about Joost's previous work. A complete overview can be found on joostwegman.com.
Roshan Cools gave a talk at the TEDxRadboudU conference. Click below to watch it.