Cheng Xue, Ph.D.

University of Pittsburgh

I am interested in decision-making behavior in a broad sense. During my study and training I have utilized multifaceted approaches including spiking neuronal network simulation, behaving monkey electrophysiology, and human psychophysics to study perceptual decisions in various aspects. Through these research experiences, I have gradually developed a keen interest on the apparent suboptimal behaviors in decision making. Many of them have cognitive origins, and therefore can potentially become a window to reveal important neuronal constraints in perception or decision making. I believe research in this direction will inspire new treatment for various neurological disorders. Additionally, understanding how and why our brains do not produce the most accurate perception or the best judgements in some situations will lead to better awareness of our flaws and become better decision-makers.

Principal Investigator: Marlene Cohen

Fellow: Ruoyi Chen

Classic studies on decision making have specifically designed experiments where the subjects were well-trained or clearly instructed to solve one single task. But what if, as we often find ourselves in real life scenarios, we also need to infer which task is relevant in a situation, and be ready to solve other tasks when they become relevant in a changed environment? Our preliminary data from monkeys implies that the flexibility to switch between tasks comes at a cost of worse perceptual decisions. In this project, we will systematically study this flexibility-accuracy trade-off in belief-based decision making with online human psychophysics experiments, and look for potential neuronal mechanisms using existing monkey electrophysiological data. The fellow will have opportunities to participate in creative designs of close-looped behavioral experiments to test our hypothesis, to build normative behavioral models to understand behavioral mechanisms, and to analyze high dimensional neuronal data in relation with behavior.

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