Breaking News
May 3, 2019 - Vaping and Smoking May Signal Greater Motivation to Quit
May 3, 2019 - Dementia looks different in brains of Hispanics
May 3, 2019 - Short-Staffed Nursing Homes See Drop In Medicare Ratings
May 3, 2019 - Study of teens with eating disorders explores how substance users differ from non-substance users
May 3, 2019 - Scientists develop new video game that may help in the study of Alzheimer’s
May 3, 2019 - Arc Bio introduces Galileo Pathogen Solution product line at ASM Clinical Virology Symposium
May 3, 2019 - Cornell University study uncovers relationship between starch digestion gene and gut bacteria
May 3, 2019 - How to Safely Use Glucose Meters and Test Strips for Diabetes
May 3, 2019 - Anti-inflammatory drugs ineffective for prevention of Alzheimer’s disease
May 3, 2019 - Study tracks Pennsylvania’s oil and gas waste-disposal practices
May 3, 2019 - Creating a better radiation diagnostic test for astronauts
May 3, 2019 - Vegans are often deficient in these four nutrients
May 3, 2019 - PPDC announces seed grants to develop medical devices for children
May 3, 2019 - Study maps out the frequency and impact of water polo head injuries
May 3, 2019 - Research on Reddit identifies risks associated with unproven treatments for opioid addiction
May 3, 2019 - Good smells may help ease tobacco cravings
May 3, 2019 - Medical financial hardship found to be very common among people in the United States
May 3, 2019 - Researchers develop multimodal system for personalized post-stroke rehabilitation
May 3, 2019 - Study shows significant mortality benefit with CABG over percutaneous coronary intervention
May 3, 2019 - Will gene-editing of human embryos ever be justifiable?
May 3, 2019 - FDA Approves Dengvaxia (dengue vaccine) for the Prevention of Dengue Disease in Endemic Regions
May 3, 2019 - Why Tonsillitis Keeps Coming Back
May 3, 2019 - Fighting the opioid epidemic with data
May 3, 2019 - Maggot sausages may soon be a reality
May 3, 2019 - Deletion of ATDC gene prevents development of pancreatic cancer in mice
May 2, 2019 - Targeted Therapy Promising for Rare Hematologic Cancer
May 2, 2019 - Alzheimer’s disease is a ‘double-prion disorder,’ study shows
May 2, 2019 - Reservoir bugs: How one bacterial menace makes its home in the human stomach
May 2, 2019 - Clinical, Admin Staff From Cardiology Get Sneak Peek at Epic
May 2, 2019 - Depression increases hospital use and mortality in children
May 2, 2019 - Vicon and NOC support CURE International to create first gait lab in Ethiopia
May 2, 2019 - Researchers use 3D printer to make paper organs
May 2, 2019 - Viral infection in utero associated with behavioral abnormalities in offspring
May 2, 2019 - U.S. Teen Opioid Deaths Soaring
May 2, 2019 - Opioid distribution data should be public
May 2, 2019 - In the Spotlight: “I’m learning every single day”
May 2, 2019 - 2019 Schaefer Scholars Announced
May 2, 2019 - Podcast: KHN’s ‘What The Health?’ Bye-Bye, ACA, And Hello ‘Medicare-For-All’?
May 2, 2019 - Study describes new viral molecular evasion mechanism used by cytomegalovirus
May 2, 2019 - SLU study suggests a more equitable way for Medicare reimbursement
May 2, 2019 - Scientists discover first gene involved in lower urinary tract obstruction
May 2, 2019 - Researchers identify 34 genes associated with increased risk of ovarian cancer
May 2, 2019 - Many low-income infants receive formula in the first few days of life, finds study
May 2, 2019 - Global study finds high success rate for hip and knee replacements
May 2, 2019 - Taking depression seriously: What is it?
May 2, 2019 - With Head Injuries Mounting, Will Cities Put Their Feet Down On E-Scooters?
May 2, 2019 - Scientists develop small fluorophores for tracking metabolites in living cells
May 2, 2019 - Study casts new light into how mothers’ and babies’ genes influence birth weight
May 2, 2019 - Researchers uncover new brain mechanisms regulating body weight
May 2, 2019 - Organ-on-chip systems offered to Asia-Pacific regions by Sydney’s AXT
May 2, 2019 - Adoption of new rules drops readmission penalties against safety net hospitals
May 2, 2019 - Kids and teens who consume zero-calorie sweetened beverages do not save calories
May 2, 2019 - Improved procedure for cancer-related erectile dysfunction
May 2, 2019 - Hormone may improve social behavior in autism
May 2, 2019 - Alzheimer’s disease may be caused by infectious proteins called prions
May 2, 2019 - Even Doctors Can’t Navigate Our ‘Broken Health Care System’
May 2, 2019 - Study looks at the impact on criminal persistence of head injuries
May 2, 2019 - Honey ‘as high in sugars as table sugar’
May 2, 2019 - Innovations to U.S. food system could help consumers in choosing healthy foods
May 2, 2019 - FDA Approves Mavyret (glecaprevir and pibrentasvir) as First Treatment for All Genotypes of Hepatitis C in Pediatric Patients
May 2, 2019 - Women underreport prevalence and intensity of their own snoring
May 2, 2019 - Concussion summit focuses on science behind brain injury
May 2, 2019 - Booker’s Argument For Environmental Justice Stays Within The Lines
May 2, 2019 - Cornell research explains increased metastatic cancer risk in diabetics
May 2, 2019 - Mount Sinai study provides fresh insights into cellular pathways that cause cancer
May 2, 2019 - Researchers to study link between prenatal pesticide exposures and childhood ADHD
May 2, 2019 - CoGEN Congress 2019: Speakers’ overviews
May 2, 2019 - A new strategy for managing diabetic macular edema in people with good vision
May 2, 2019 - Sagent Pharmaceuticals Issues Voluntary Nationwide Recall of Ketorolac Tromethamine Injection, USP, 60mg/2mL (30mg per mL) Due to Lack of Sterility Assurance
May 2, 2019 - Screen time associated with behavioral problems in preschoolers
May 2, 2019 - Hormone reduces social impairment in kids with autism | News Center
May 2, 2019 - Researchers synthesize peroxidase-mimicking nanozyme with low cost and superior catalytic activity
May 2, 2019 - Study results of a potential drug to treat Type 2 diabetes in children announced
May 2, 2019 - Multigene test helps doctors to make effective treatment decisions for breast cancer patients
May 2, 2019 - UNC School of Medicine initiative providing unique care to dementia patients
May 2, 2019 - Nestlé Health Science and VHP join forces to launch innovative COPES program for cancer patients
May 2, 2019 - Study examines how our brain generates consciousness and loses it during anesthesia
May 2, 2019 - Transition Support Program May Aid Young Adults With Type 1 Diabetes
May 2, 2019 - Study shows how neutrophils exacerbate atherosclerosis by inducing smooth muscle-cell death
May 2, 2019 - Research reveals complexity of how we make decisions
Researchers investigate how eyes are the window to our mistakes

Researchers investigate how eyes are the window to our mistakes

We all make poor decisions from time to time. Researchers at the University of Arizona are working to better understand why, and they’re looking to the eyes for answers.

To study mistake making in humans, researchers performed an auditory test on 108 participants in a lab. Each participant listened to a series of 20 clicks, some in their left ear and some in their right, over the span of a single second. They then had to decide which ear received the most clicks. Each participant repeated the task 760 times, on average, with the patterns of clicks varying in each trial.

Due to the rapid nature of the task, mistakes in responses were common, with participants giving the wrong answer about 22 percent of the time. Throughout all the trials, researchers were interested in what was going on in participants’ eyes – specifically their pupils – when an error was made.

Their findings, published today in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, add to scientific understanding of how pupil size and reactivity may correlate with mistake making, and what that may tell us about what’s happening in the brain when we make the wrong choice.

“When we make decisions in real life, we don’t have all the information presented to us at once; we have to integrate the information over time to make a decision,” said lead author Waitsang Keung, a postdoctoral research associate in the UA Department of Psychology.

“Humans don’t make perfect decisions. They’re subjected to a lot of cognitive biases, so one question is what kind of biases are they subjected to in this process of integrating evidence over time?” Keung said.

Four sources of suboptimal decision making

Using the data they collected, Keung and her collaborators examined four main sources believed to contribute to mistake making in simple perceptual decisions. They found that all four sources were at play in the mistakes made by study participants, and pupil reactivity was correlated with two of those sources.

One reason that humans make imperfect decisions is because we unequally weigh evidence we receive over time. In a perfect world, we would weigh all evidence we receive equally – in a flat line, essentially. In reality, we tend to weigh information much more unevenly.

For example, when listening to a lecture, some people might give a great deal of weight to a speaker’s opening remarks; this is known as a “primacy effect.” Others might be more heavily influenced by the concluding comments, or the things they hear last; this is known as a recency effect. Researchers refer to the pattern of how humans weigh evidence over time as the “integration kernel.”

Study participants whose integration kernel was more uneven – in other words, those who weighed the evidence they received during the task more unequally – had greater pupil dilation, or increase in pupil size. This was especially true of participants whose responses were most heavily influenced by the clicks they heard in the middle of the task than the clicks at the beginning or end.

The unequal weighing of evidence was determined to be the second leading cause of mistakes in the trials. The No. 1 source of errors, which also was correlated with pupil dilation, was so-called “noise” in the brain, or the brain’s inability to interpret input perfectly.

“The brain is an intrinsically noisy thing, because it’s basically a computer made of fat and water. It has an intrinsic inability to represent stimuli perfectly,” said UA assistant professor of psychology Robert Wilson, who co-authored the paper with Keung and Todd Hagen, who was a research specialist in Wilson’s lab.

The two other sources of mistake making were present in the trials but were not correlated with change in pupil size. Those were: order effect from previous trials, or a person’s tendency to let previous decisions and outcomes interfere with the present choice; and irrational side biases, or an individual’s consistent personal preference for one over choice over another, regardless of the evidence.

What the pupils say about the brain

So, what do the pupils tell us about what’s happening in the brain when we make decisions?

Pupil size is reflective of the brain’s levels of norepinephrine – a neurotransmitter that modulates arousal.

“We used pupillometry as a proxy for norepinephrine levels in the brain, as we looked at how pupils change depending on which biases a person exhibits,” Keung said.

While some study participants showed significant pupil change during the task, others showed little to none, depending what was at the root of their mistakes. It’s unclear at this point why some people would be more prone to certain types of mistakes than others. That’s an area for future research.

“Arousal processes seem to be involved in modulating two kinds of mistakes, but not all four kinds of mistakes, and it may be norepinephrine-driven,” Wilson said. “That potentially means that norepinephrine is controlling the number of mistakes that we’re making and our amount of behavioral variability.”

That raises another question for future research, Wilson said: “If norepinephrine is related to the number of mistakes you make, to what extent can you control it?”

The research is part of ongoing work in Wilson’s Neuroscience of Reinforcement Learning Lab, which studies what drives humans to explore, take risks and make mistakes.

“We’re really trying to get at this question of why do we make mistakes, and the answer is, in part, because we have multiple systems in our brain that are sort of competing with each other and causing us to make suboptimal decisions,” Wilson said. “To a certain extent that’s controllable, but not completely.”

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles