The neurobiology of visual-saccadic decision making

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Over the past two decades significant progress has been made toward understanding the neural basis of primate decision making, the biological process that combines sensory data with stored information to select and execute behavioral responses. The most striking progress in this area has been made in studies of visual-saccadic decision making, a system that is becoming a model for understanding decision making in general. In this system, theoretical models of efficient decision making developed in the social sciences are beginning to be used to describe the computations the brain must perform when it connects sensation and action. Guided in part by these economic models, neurophysiologists have been able to describe neuronal activity recorded from the brains of awake-behaving primates during actual decision making. These recent studies have examined the neural basis of decisions, ranging from those made in predictable sensorimotor tasks to those unpredictable decisions made when animals are engaged in strategic conflict. All of these experiments seem to describe a surprisingly well-integrated set of physiological mechanisms that can account for a broad range of behavioral phenomena. This review presents many of these recent studies within the emerging neuroeconomic framework for understanding primate decision making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-179
Number of pages47
JournalAnnual Review of Neuroscience
StatePublished - 2003


  • Choice
  • Human
  • Monkey
  • Neuroeconomics
  • Oculomotor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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