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The brain science behind 'A beautiful mind'

In article in today's issue of the journal Neuron, two neuroscientists Paul Glimcher of New York University and Michael Dorris, a former NYU colleague currently at Queens University, Canada offer evidence for the neurological basis for the theories of John Nash, the Nobel-winning economist who pioneered game theory.

The findings in the Neuron article are a major advancement in the increasingly prominent field of neuroeconomics, which attempts to discover the basis within the brain for the sort of economic decision-making predicted by game theory. -- in the issue of Science due to be released on October 15th, 2004

To develop their findings, Glimcher and Dorris used rhesus monkeys to participate in a strategic conflict game known as the "the inspection game" (the game was first developed by the RAND corporation to evaluate the likelihood of Soviet compliance with arms control agreements). In the human version of the game, there are two players, an "employer" and an "employee." The employee's goal is to "shirk" as much as possible (for which he receives his wage plus free time), while the employer who can use an "inspector" to catch the employee has the goal of spending as little as possible on inspectors while maximizing the employee's appearances at work.

John Nash, whose life and work was detailed in the movie and book, "A Beautiful Mind," developed a theory that predicts outcomes in this kind of strategic setting. Dorris and Glimcher sought to test those predictions with experiments on both humans and rhesus monkeys, and to examine in the monkeys whether there was evidence that decision-making became encoded within the posterior parietal cortex of the primate brain.

In their research, a computer played the role of the employer, and the human and monkey participants played the employee. Overall, humans played the game hundreds of times, and the rhesus monkeys played it thousands of times; humans were
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13-Oct-2004


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