My lab is interested in rewards, emotions and decisions. We study how the brain codes for reward value, produces appropriate emotional responses, and enacts decisions.
Reward coding is a fundamentally interesting problem. Consider that an ice cream cone, the opening four notes of Beethoven’s 5th symphony, and the paper bills we call money have very little in common. They are not made of the same physical stuff. There is no ruler that can effectively compare them. Even biologically, they enter our consciousness via distinct pathways that have no common receptors. And yet, we effortlessly recognize each one as a reward and commonly exchange one for another. How does the brain manage this poly-sensory, high-dimensional problem?
The questions that we ask include: How do we learn from rewards? How do we calculate value? How do we solve problems with complex incentive structures? What neural mechanisms facilitate reward comparisons?
To answer these questions, we focus our effort on careful behavioral task design and measurement using economic theory, animal learning theory, and reinforcement learning theory. These classical behavioral theories provide us with a rigorous framework for defining behavioral variables, such as value, probability, and confidence. We use a combination of experimental techniques, including single unit recording and optogenetic tagging, to sample from and manipulate single neurons.
To learn more about our research, click through the website. We are dedicated to cultivating a diverse lab environment, and we do not discriminate based on race or ethnicity, immigration status, sexuality or gender identity, socio-economic status, or disability status. If you are interested in joining the lab, contact Bill directly.