Stony Brook Mind/Brain Lecture Series


11th Annual Lecture:


How the Brain Decides:

Uncovering the Secrets of Cognition


Guest Lecturer: Michael N. Shadlen, M.D., Ph.D.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Department of Physiology and Biophysics

University of Washington


Monday, March 12, 2007

4:30 PM


Staller Center for the Arts, Main Stage

Stony Brook University (Main Campus), Stony Brook, NY

(Free presentation, intended for a general audience.)

Event overview:

The brain acquires information from the environment through the senses. Unlike simpler animals that react immediately to such information, or not at all, our sophisticated brains allow us to ponder and cogitate. Higher brain function has imbued a capacity to interpret information in order to assess its significance in light of other knowledge, and to decide what to do about it. Thus, the process of decision-making offers a window on complex mental functions. Neuroscientists are beginning to understand the brain mechanisms that underlie the formation of a decision from the evidence received through the senses. I will describe recent discoveries that we have made using a combination of behavioral, electrophysiological and computational techniques. Interestingly, the neural computations that underlie decision-making were anticipated during WWII by Alan Turing and Abraham Wald. Turing applied this tool to break the German navy's Enigma cipher, while Wald invented the field of sequential analysis. Besides mathematical elegance and winning wars, our experiments suggest that this computational strategy may lie at the core of higher brain function. The principles of normal brain function revealed by the study of decision-making expose a path to new treatments for neurological disorders affecting our most cherished cognitive abilities. 


Additional Information


The Swartz Foundation – Mind/Brain Lecture Series Home Page


Stony Brook University Mind/Brain Lecture Series Home Page



Directions to Stony Brook University



Related resources on the Internet:


Dr. Shadlen’s Home Pages




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