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Overcoming status quo bias in the human brain

Fleming, S. M.; Thomas, C. L.; Dolan, R. J.; (2010) Overcoming status quo bias in the human brain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , 107 (13) pp. 6005-6009. 10.1073/pnas.0910380107. Green open access

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Abstract

Humans often accept the status quo when faced with conflicting choice alternatives. However, it is unknown how neural pathways connecting cognition with action modulate this status quo acceptance. Here we developed a visual detection task in which subjects tended to favor the default when making difficult, but not easy, decisions. This bias was suboptimal in that more errors were made when the default was accepted. A selective increase in subthalamic nucleus (STN) activity was found when the status quo was rejected in the face of heightened decision difficulty. Analysis of effective connectivity showed that inferior frontal cortex, a region more active for difficult decisions, exerted an enhanced modulatory influence on the STN during switches away from the status quo. These data suggest that the neural circuits required to initiate controlled, nondefault actions are similar to those previously shown to mediate outright response suppression. We conclude that specific prefrontal-basal ganglia dynamics are involved in rejecting the default, a mechanism that may be important in a range of difficult choice scenarios.

Type: Article
Title: Overcoming status quo bias in the human brain
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0910380107
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0910380107
Language: English
Additional information: Paper freely available online through the PNAS open access option
Keywords: Decision making, functional MRI, subthalamic nucleus, action, conflict
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology > Imaging Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/19178
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