In neurobiological studies of various cognitive abilities, neuroscientists use mathematical models to fit behavioral data from well-controlled experiments and look for neural activities that are correlated with parameters in those models. The pinpointed neural correlates are often taken as evidence that a given task is performed according to the prescription of the applied model, and the relevant brain areas encode parameters of such a model. However, to go beyond correlations toward causal understanding, it is necessary to elucidate at multiple levels the neural circuit mechanisms of cognitive processes. This review focuses on recent studies of reward-based decision-making that have begun to tackle this challenge.
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