|Project leader: Gerhard Jocham||
The main focus of our research is to investigate the neural mechanisms of reward-guided learning and choice. How does the brain make a choice between different alternatives at hand? For example, should you have pasta or curry for dinner? Should you go to university or do an apprenticeship? How do we learn from the outcomes of these kind of decisions? How, for instance, does the brain make use of an enjoyable, traffic-free car journey when determining alternate routes in the future? Our research aims at characterising the brain structures involved and the computations they perform. Furthermore, the role of several neurotransmitter systems (chemical messengers), such as dopamine or norepinephrine, will be investigated. In a number of diseases like depression, addiction, or Parkinson’s Disease, the function of these messenger systems is often compromised, which is thought to play a causal role in the development of these diseases. These conditions are frequently characterised by profound impairments in learning and decision making. Therefore, a better understanding of how these mechanisms are impacted by chemical messengers will also further our understanding of psychiatric and neurological conditions.