They identify the neurons that help humans make decisions

A team of scientists has managed to identify and selectively manipulate the different neural circuits responsible for balancing decision-making in the brain, which opens a promising avenue to address risky pathological behaviors, such as gambling disorders.

The discovery, led by Japanese researchers and reported by the magazine ‘Science’, has been achieved using a technique called optogenetics, a method that allows the activity of specific neurons to be modulated using light.


Until now, science had some knowledge of the higher cognitive processes that continually occur in the brain to analyze the degrees of risk and uncertainty of any situation and determine, based on them, the best way to act.

The researchers also knew that in certain cases, this decision-making can manifest itself as low- and high-risk pathological behavior, in the latter case associated, among others, with gambling disorders.


However, the exact underlying neural circuits involved in that evaluation and decision-making were a mystery because of the technical difficulties of specifically directing and manipulating these neural circuits.

Now, the team of researchers led by scientist Tadashi Isa, from the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Biology (WPI-ASHBi) and the Faculty of Medicine of Kyoto University, has managed to shed light on these circuits through experiments with optogenetics in primates.


“Given the similarities in structure and function between the brains of human and non-human primates, our findings may have potential therapeutic implications, and even future applications, for the treatment of pathological forms of risk-taking, such as mood disorders. game,” says Tadashi Isa in a statement.


By pharmacologically inactivating several candidate frontal brain regions in primates, the authors discovered that the ventral part of area 6V was responsible for the behavior of choosing high-risk options.

(With information from EFE)