Spatial decision making - e.g., deciding where to move - is a critical function of the nervous system, but its neural basis is not well understood. The superior colliculus (SC), a bilateral midbrain structure, is a critical node in an interconnected network of cortical and subcortical brain regions that have been shown to subserve spatial choice. The Felsen lab uses cell-type specific recording and manipulation in behaving mice to examine functional neural circuits in the SC, and how their computations are modulated by SC inputs. We have found that choice-related SC activity depends on competition between potential spatial targets, and we have begun examining the role of inhibitory SC neurons in mediating such competition. Further, we have shown that the pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus may modulate SC representations during decision making by providing estimates of the value of spatial targets based on prior experience. We are particularly interested in how these findings inform models of SC function and spatial choice.
Gidon Felsen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics, and an associate faculty member in the Center for Bioethics and Humanities. His laboratory studies the neural mechanisms of decision making using electrophysiological, behavioral, molecular, and quantitative approaches (see below). His related interest in bioethics starts from the observation that people make predictably poor decisions in particular contexts. A range of strategies has been proposed to help people improve these sorts of decisions. Dr. Felsen’s research examines how the ethics and the efficacy of these “decisional enhancement” strategies can be informed by what we know about how the brain makes decisions. This work is currently supported by the Greenwall Foundation’s Faculty Scholars Program in Bioethics.
Neuroscience Seminar Series by the NYU-ECNU Institute of Brain and Cognitive Science at NYU Shanghai