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Understanding the impact of brain fluctuations on decision making

Project description

Investigating the link between endogenous brain activity and behavioural inconsistencies

It is generally assumed that people will make consistent decisions in similar situations, yet research has shown that decision-making is inherently inconsistent and that erratic deviations are often associated with mental illnesses. Theories on the subject don’t adequately explain the source of these inconsistencies. The EU-funded NeuroFlux project will investigate the hypothesis that internal brain fluctuations play a role in inconsistent and impulsive behavioural patterns. It will use an innovative neuroimaging technique to gauge the extent to which endogenous fluctuations in certain regions of the brain affect decision-making and impulsive behaviour. This project will provide a new understanding of human behaviour and may uncover the processes responsible for impulsive mental disorders.


Our societies are built on the premise that humans are rational agents who make decisions that are in line with their held beliefs. A central principle is that of choice consistency, i.e. that humans will make identical choices when facing the same problem. However, experimental work overwhelmingly demonstrates that humans are consistently inconsistent and that an exaggerated behavioural variability is a key feature of impulsive psychiatric disorders. The causes for these inconsistencies are unknown and economic theories and computational models fail to explain this omnipresent human characteristic. I propose that intrinsic fluctuations of brain activity are causing us to behave seemingly inconsistent, and the overarching aim of NeuroFlux is to examine how endogenous brain activity changes how we act and make decisions.

NeuroFlux will use a novel neuroimaging framework that I have recently developed and that allows to quantify whether and how strongly endogenous fluctuations in a specific brain area contribute to behaviour. I will use this cutting-edge technology to answer the following questions: (i) How do endogenous fluctuations in the dopaminergic midbrain influence decision making and learning? (ii) How do endogenous fluctuations in the noradrenergic midbrain influence decision making? (iii) Is impulsivity driven by an exaggerated brain-behaviour coupling? To address these questions, I will combine real-time functional MRI with pharmacological manipulations and transdiagnostic studies across three intertwined work packages.

NeuroFlux will reveal how the brain’s idle states drive and alter our behaviours. This project will provide a new computational understanding that no longer treats behavioural inconsistency as irrelevant noise but as a meaningful window into the brain’s inner workings. NeuroFlux thus has the potential to revolutionise how we understand human behaviour per se and may reveal the mechanisms underlying impulsive psychiatric disorders.


Net EU contribution
€ 1 484 727,00
72074 Tuebingen

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Baden-Württemberg Tübingen Tübingen, Landkreis
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00

Beneficiaries (2)