Thursday, May 19, 2016

Brain modules that process human consensus decision-making

Suzuki et al. offer a study noting brain areas important in consensus decision-making, with different decision variables being associated with activity in different brain area that are integrated by distributed neural activity (See Network hubs in the human brain for an overall review of domains of cognitive function with some great summary graphics). The summary and abstract:

•A task is used to study how the brain implements consensus decision-making 
•Consensus decision-making depends on three distinct computational processes 
•These different signals are encoded in distinct brain regions 
•Integration of these signals occurs in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex
Consensus building in a group is a hallmark of animal societies, yet little is known about its underlying computational and neural mechanisms. Here, we applied a computational framework to behavioral and fMRI data from human participants performing a consensus decision-making task with up to five other participants. We found that participants reached consensus decisions through integrating their own preferences with information about the majority group members’ prior choices, as well as inferences about how much each option was stuck to by the other people. These distinct decision variables were separately encoded in distinct brain areas—the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, posterior superior temporal sulcus/temporoparietal junction, and intraparietal sulcus—and were integrated in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex. Our findings provide support for a theoretical account in which collective decisions are made through integrating multiple types of inference about oneself, others, and environments, processed in distinct brain modules.

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