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Long Ding

University of Pennsylvania
Website : https://www.med.upenn.edu/dinglab/


Basal ganglia contributions to perceptual decision making in monkeys


Decision making often requires processing uncertainty related to reward expectation and/or sensory input. The basal ganglia are well-known to be involved in reward modulated behaviors, including value-based decisions that take into account reward uncertainty. The basal ganglia are also involved in perceptual decisions based on uncertain sensory evidence, but their exact roles are less understood. We are interested in basal ganglia contributions to complex decisions that require appropriate balancing of reward and sensory information. In my talk, I will summarize our recent work examining the computational roles of the caudate nucleus in monkeys performing an asymmetric-reward random-dot visual motion direction discrimination task. I will also share more preliminary results of single-neuron activity patterns in the subthalamic nucleus for perceptual decisions. These results suggest that the basal ganglia contribute to multiple computational components in the decision process. 


Long Ding received her BS in Telecommunications from Xidian University in Xi’an, China. Inspired by lectures on classic studies of the pupil reflex and ion channels, where engineering and mathematical concepts led to insightful inferences about how the brain works, she switched fields and went on to obtain a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Pennsylvania. She has been fascinated by the basal ganglia and looked at their functions through many lenses, including characteristics of resting tremor in Parkinson’s Disease patients, dopaminergic actions that may support vocal learning in songbirds, reward modulated saccade behaviors in monkeys, and neural computations supporting decision making in monkeys. She joined the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania in 2012 and is now a Research Associate Professor in the Department of Neuroscience. Her current research focuses on the computational roles of individual basal ganglia nuclei in decision processes that incorporate noisy visual information and reward contexts in monkeys.