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Title: Decision making, the frontal lobes and foraging behaviour
Author: Kolling, Nils Stephen
ISNI:       0000 0004 5357 469X
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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The aim of this thesis was to understand the function of the frontal lobes during different types of decisions thusfar mostly neglected in cognitive neuroscience. Namely, I sought to understand how decisions are made when comparisons are not about a simple set of concrete options presented, but rather require a comparison with one specific encounter and a sense of the value of the current environment (Chapter 2-3). Additionally, I wanted to understand how decisions between concrete options can be contextualized by the current environment to allow considerations about changing environmental constraints to factor into the decision making process (Chapter 4-5). At last, I wanted to test how the potential for future behaviours within an environment has an effect on peoples decisions (Chapter 6). In other words, how do people construct prospective value when it requires a sense of own future behaviours? All this work was informed by concepts and models originating from optimal foraging theory, which seeks to understand animal behaviours using computational models for different ecological types of choices. Thus, this thesis offers a perspective on the neural mechanisms underlying human decision making capacities that relates them to common problems faced by animals and presumably humans in ecological environments (Chapter 1 and 7). As optimal foraging theory assumes that solving these problems efficiently is highly relevant for survival, it is possible that neural structures evolved in ways to particularly accommodate for the solution of those problems. Therefore, different prefrontal structures might be dedicated to unique ways of solving ecological kinds of decision problems. My thesis as a whole gives some evidence for such a perspective, as dACC and vmPFC were repeatedly identified as constituting unique systems for evaluation according to different reference frames. Their competition within a wider network of areas appeared to ultimately drive decisions under changing contexts. In the future, a better understanding of those changing interactions between these prefrontal areas which generate more complex and adaptive behaviours, will be crucial for understanding more natural choice behaviours. For this temporally resolved neural measurements as well as causal interference will be essential.
Supervisor: Rushworth, M. F. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Cognitive Neuroscience ; Neuroscience ; Behavioural Neuroscience ; Experimental psychology ; human foraging ; decision making ; frontal lobes