Heuristic and optimal policy computations in the human brain during sequential decision-making

Contributed by christoph.w.korn

Christoph W. Korn and Dominik R. Bach
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AuthorsChristoph W. Korn and Dominik R. Bach
DescriptionAbstract of the article: Optimal decisions across extended time horizons require value calculations over multiple probabilistic future states. Humans may circumvent such complex computations by resorting to easy-to-compute heuristics that approximate optimal solutions. To probe the potential interplay between heuristic and optimal computations, we develop a novel sequential decision-making task, framed as virtual foraging in which participants had to avoid virtual starvation. Rewards depend only on final outcomes over five-trial blocks, necessitating planning over five sequential decisions and probabilistic outcomes. Here, we report model comparisons demonstrating that participants primarily rely on the best available heuristic but also use the normatively optimal policy. FMRI signals in medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) relate to heuristic and optimal policies and associated choice uncertainties. Crucially, reaction times and dorsal MPFC activity scale with discrepancies between heuristic and optimal policies. Thus, sequential decision-making in humans may emerge from integration between heuristic and optimal policies, implemented by controllers in MPFC.
JournalNature Communications
Field Strength3.0
Add DateDec. 8, 2017, 10:50 a.m.