The neural bases of adaptive behavior in social environments are far from being understood. We propose to use both computational and neuroscientific methodologies to provide new and more accurate models of learning in interactive settings. The long-term objective is to develop a neural theory of learning: a mathematical framework that describes the computations mediating social learning in terms of neural signals, structures and plasticity. We plan to develop a model of adaptive learning based on three basic principles: (1) the observation of the outcome of un-chosen options improves the decisions taken in the learning process, (2) learning can be transferred from one domain to another, and (3) learning can be transferred from one agent to another (i.e. social learning). In all three cases, humans appear able to construct and transfer knowledge from sources other than their own direct experience, an underappreciated though we believe critical aspect of learning.
The candidate will use techniques like functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to identify learning mechanisms used in social and non-social contexts. The work of the candidate will contribute to the development of theoretical models of adaptive behavior.
- Understanding how reward learning and counterfactual learning (Coricelli et al., 2005) signals are integrated in the brain
- To identify the neural substrates that encode transfer learning signals; and to understand how transfer learning modulates the neural systems of reward learning
- Understanding the brain and behavioral correlates of learning by thinking vs. learning by doing
- Understanding how strategic thinking (Coricelli and Nagel, 2009) modulates social transfer learning
- To compare social transfer learning signals in learning by observation vs. learning by doing
Coricelli, G., Critchley, H.D., Joffily, M., O’Doherty, J.D., Sirigu, A., and Dolan, R.J. (2005). “Regret and its Avoidance: A Neuroimaging Study of Choice Behavior”. Nature Neuroscience, 8, pp. 1255 - 1262.
Coricelli, G., and Nagel, R. (2009). “Neural correlates of depth of strategic reasoning in medial prefrontal cortex”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, PNAS 106, 23, pp. 9163-8.