Study Shows How Messenger Substances In The Brain Affect Individual Decision-Making

human brain and decision making

A recent study conducted by a team of psychologists and physicists investigated the neurobiological processes in different types of decision-making. The study reported that differences in the ratio of two messenger substances influence short-term and long-term strategic decisions in a different manner.

While it was experimented by other studies that different parts of the brain are responsible for various decisions, in this study, the researchers analyzed the stability of the neuronal messenger substances GABA and glutamate in two types of decision-making. The researchers observed the supposedly ‘reward-based decisions’, which involve maximizing reward by selecting the better of two options currently available. Results suggested that such decision-making processes in the brain are mainly processed in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). However, unlike the reward-based decisions, ‘patch-leaving decisions’ are about long-term strategic concerns that include a careful balancing of immediate cost against the gain. According to the literature, such decisions are made in the brain’s dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC).

The two messenger substances, glutamate and GABA may play a key role. In the patch-leaving scenario, subjects with a higher ratio of GABA to glutamate in dACC were quicker to leave a depleting resource. In the second case, subjects with higher concentrations of GABA relative to glutamate in vmPFC showed significantly higher decision accuracy. By contrast, people with more GABA in vmPFC display greater accuracy for short-term decisions.

To Know More, You May Refer To:

Kaiser LF, Gruendler TOJ, Speck O, Luettgau L, Jocham G. Dissociable roles of cortical excitation-inhibition balance during patch-leaving versus value-guided decisions. Nature Communications, 2021 DOI: 10.1038/S41467-020-20875-W 1

References:
  1. Kaiser, L. F., Gruendler, T. O., Speck, O., Luettgau, L., & Jocham, G. (2021). Dissociable roles of cortical excitation-inhibition balance during patch-leaving versus value-guided decisions. Nature Communications, 12(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-20875-w []
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