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Dr. John O'Doherty, California Institute of Technology, USA

Dates of visit: May 2012, August 2013, December 2014 Host: Frans van Winden

John O’Doherty is professor of psychology and director of the Brain Imaging Center at Caltech. He is a leading researcher in the field of reward-related learning and decision-making neuroscience. At the core of his approach is the use of computational models together with various neuropsychological techniques (like fMRI and TMS). This approach allows to improve our understanding of behavior and to develop new theory. His work excellently fits the research interests of the ABC decision-making research group.

While visiting he presented several lectures, participated in various workshops, advised young researchers, and started collaboration with ABC researchers.

Following up on an expert meeting on “Aversive emotional processes and decision-making” (May 25, 2012) a project on the role of incidental (task unrelated) fear on risky decision making was started, with Dr. Frans van Winden (PI, behavioral economics and neuroeconomics) and Dr. Sonja van Well (postdoc neuropsychology, partly funded by Caltech) as collaborators. More specifically, this project concerns a model-based fMRI analysis of investment behavior under (no) fear of an electric shock. First results  – showing an impact of fear that cannot be explained by standard economic theory – were presented at the Society for Neuroeconomics conference in 2014 (Miami). Several publications in internationally respected journals are anticipated, and further projects are planned, depending on financial support.

Presentations by Dr. O’Doherty:

  • May 15, 2012: “Neural mechanisms underlying Pavlovian influences on choice and performance”, Decision Making Seminar (CSCA and Rita Vuyk lecture event).
  • May 25, 2012:  “Aversive representations in the human brain during valuation and decision-making”, plus Chair final discussion, Expert Meeting – Aversive Emotional Processes and Decision-making, organized jointly with Richard Ridderinkhof on the occasion of Dr. O’Doherty’s first visit.
  • August 24, 2013: “”Neural mechanisms of valuation”, ABEE 2013, Amsterdam Symposium on Behavioral Economics and Experimental Economics: A Dialogue Between Laboratory Experiments and Neuroeconomics.
  • August 30, 2013: Meeting with O’Doherty, The Role of Uncertainty in Learning and Behavioral Control (for PhD-students, young researchers, and not so young researchers).

December 18, 2014: “The social computational brain”, Neuroeconomics workshop, Amsterdam School of Economics.