The new "Decision Circuits Lab" under the direction of Torben Ott at the Bernstein Center Berlin explores fundamental questions about how the brain implements decisions - using experiments, theory and esprit.
Torben Ott, private
/BN, Duppé/ Decisions are shaping our everyday lives – often imperceptibly. As humans, we are constantly adapting our decisions, asking ourselves “does this decision pay off?”. Torben Ott wants to tackle the questions of how these processes take place in the brain, what triggers them, which areas of the brain are responsible, and how they can be influenced. Fresh from Washington University in the USA, he will establish a research group at the Bernstein Center Berlin starting in January. His new “Decision Circuits Lab” is funded by the Emmy-Noether Program of the German Research Foundation DFG.
With Torben Ott, the BCCN Berlin gains a dynamic young scientist who seeks to bridge the gap between experimental and theoretical research. Ott deliberately chose to move to Berlin, one of the world’s most exciting places when it comes to brain research. “In Berlin, the cutting edge of theoretical, experimental and clinical research in neuroscience is joined in one place. That’s why I feel that my interdisciplinary research program has many links to other labs in the city and can really take off.”
Ott studies intelligent behavior in humans and animals. With the help of computational approaches, these experiments can uncover algorithms of decision-making – in others words, they identify the ingredients that make up a decision. In his research, Ott is using novel methods and tools, such as optogenetic techniques, to measure brain signals and control behavior more quickly and accurately. One might say he opens the famous window to the brain a tiny crack.
A major goal of his research is to determine how decisions are initially learned or newly adapted. With the help of theoretical models, Ott investigates how the two neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, or psychotropic drugs, alter the dynamic network properties for decision-making processes. In a further step, his research aims to provide an important scientific basis for improving drug treatments for mental disorders.
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