Brain Cells It is the brain that apparently decides whether to spend or save. A groundbreaking research commenced by the Yale University claims that activity of a single brain cell can anticipate the outcome of decisions made by an individual. The decision may include a complex network linking multiple areas of the brain in a complex feedback loop.

In order to conduct the research, investigators analyzed the information processed at the level of both brain regions and individual cells. Activity in individual neurons of monkeys was recorded as they provided choices between smaller rewards or larger ones. Just like humans, monkeys too probably end up vouching for immediate gratification. Innumerable tests asserted that the activity of a single brain cell differed depending on whether the monkey sought immediate award or delayed one. The firing of individual neurons appears as a part of a larger regional pattern of activity.

It was noted that the basal ganglia region of the brain aids in assessing the magnitude of the reward as well as the time taken for reward to be received. This area of the brain is known to manage motor function. Daeyeol Lee, associate professor of neurobiology and psychology at Yale School of Medicine and senior investigator and colleagues presume that the prefrontal cortex also performs a similar function. Two areas of the basal ganglia apparently play very different roles. While one area, the dorsal striatum, is involved in helping target the reward, second area, the ventral striatum, assists in examining the reward already chosen. It can therefore be concluded that the prefrontal cortex and the basal ganglia areas are closely connected with each other.

The research is published online January 12 in the journal Neuron.