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


Roozbeh Kiani, M.D., Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Neural Science
New York University
4 Washington Pl
Room 621
City, State, ZIP
New York, NY 10003
(508) 856-3502
[email protected]
Research field
Award year
Pew distinction
Innovation Fund investigator


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 moving dots 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. I have extended these studies in my own lab at NYU to understand how interactions across brain regions make decision-making flexible; for example, how the brain chooses appropriate decision strategies, how feedback and confidence for past choices alter future decisions, and how the brain constructs internal models of the environment to improve future decisions and adapt to environmental changes. These studies 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.

As an Innovation Fund investigator, Roozbeh Kiani, M.D., Ph.D., is teaming up with Nuo Li, Ph.D., to explore what happens in the brain when we change our minds, an underexplored and mysterious aspect of decision-making. The group will combine Li’s research on the neural circuits driving learning and memory in mice with Kiani’s work on the computational principles of decision-making in monkeys and humans. Together, they will develop a novel framework for studying decision-making across these species, allowing them to identify conserved brain areas and mechanisms that shape decisions. Their novel task and analysis approach will allow them to know when a change of mind is happening based on neural responses. Additionally, they will identify inputs that trigger a change of mind, such as new sensory information or memories. Using a combination of rigorous behavioral tests, computational modeling, and neural circuit dissection, this work will accelerate understanding of a crucial feature of decision-making across species.

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