[Seminar]"A novel form of cellular memory necessary for the influence of reward learning on decision-making" by Dr. Bernard Balleine
Speaker: Dr. Bernard Balleine
Affliation: University of New South Wales Department of Psychology
Title: A novel form of cellular memory necessary for the influence of reward learning on decision-making
Everyday choices are often made between similarly valued commodities; e.g., between similar running shoes, or similar foods in a supermarket. What sways our decisions in these situations is often advertising involving the prior association of brand-related stimuli with other more highly rewarding events. How such predictive learning influences choice is, however, not well understood and the neural bases of this effect have only recently become the focus of systematic research in humans and in other species. To investigate this process at both a psychological and a neural level we have developed a model in which the influence of these kinds of predictive relationships on action selection can be directly assessed in rodents. Over the last several years, we have systematically investigated the core neural systems that subserve this influence and, in this presentation, I will describe the background to this research project and our most recent findings regarding the more critical circuits and cell types involved in this effect. As a consequence of this research we have uncovered what appears to be a previously undocumented form of cellular memory that is sensitive to specific stimulus-reward relationships in the environment and that is subsequently used to control choice and decision-making. This finding is particularly relevant to specific disorders, particularly obsessive compulsive disorder, and I will review some of these implications.
Bernard Balleine is currently Head of the Decision Neuroscience Laboratory at UNSW Sydney. His research focuses on the neural mechanisms underlying normal and abnormal decision-making and he is internationally recognised as a leader in this field. Balleine received his BA with first class honours and the University Medal from the University of Sydney in 1988 and his PhD from the University of Cambridge, UK in 1992. He was elected to a Research Fellowship at Jesus College Cambridge in 1993 where he conducted his postdoctoral research before being appointed Assistant Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1995, Associate Professor in 2000, and Full Professor in 2004. He was elected a Fellow of the American Psychological Association in 2004 and, in 2005, was appointed Director of Research in the Brain Research Institute at UCLA. He was awarded an inaugural Australian Laureate Fellowship from the Australian Research Council in 2009 and was appointed to a Professorial position at the University of Sydney in that year. In 2015 he was made a Senior Principal Research Fellow of the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia. In 2016 he moved his laboratory to the University of NSW (UNSW Sydney) and was appointed a UNSW Scientia (Distinguished) Professor in that year.