Roozbeh Kiani, M.D., Ph.D.

Title
Assistant Professor
Department
Department of Neural Science
Institution
New York University
Address
4 Washington Pl
Room 809
City, State, Zip
New York, NY 10003
Phone
(508) 856-3502
E-mail
roozbeh[at]nyu.edu
Website
http://www.cns.nyu.edu/kianilab
Research Field
Neuroscience
Award Year
2016

Research

My lab studies the neural circuits that enable us to make decisions and flexibly adjust our behavior. As a graduate student, I studied decision-making in monkeys. The animals looked at a computer screen filled with dots moving in different directions and decided about the net motion direction. The monkeys could "bail out" of making a choice if they felt uncertain about the answer. This test allowed me to pinpoint neurons whose activity predicted how sure the animals were about motion direction. My doctoral studies also revealed the necessity of a holistic approach to understand neural computation. Only by studying neural circuits and their interactions can we develop a complete neurobiological theory of decision-making. I focused on that goal during my postdoctoral research. By performing large-scale recordings in the monkey brain, we showed that it is feasible to dynamically decode the computations that underlie choice and accurately predict upcoming decisions, their associated confidence, and even changes of mind. Now, I study what takes place in two key brain regions when monkeys adjust their decision strategy based on their confidence and feedback—a negative feedback when the opposite is strongly expected often indicates a bad internal model of the environment and requires changes in strategy. These findings will broaden our understanding of the neural basis of cognition and facilitate treatment of neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, in which decision-making becomes less flexible, leading to inappropriate behavioral choices.