Want to improve your decision-making abilities? A good first step is to understand what neuroscience is uncovering about how a healthy brain works, as well as how disorders hamper the process. BrainFacts.org, a public information initiative by three science foundations in the United States and Britain, offers this research.

Decision-making is such a seamless brain process that we’re usually unaware of it—until our choice results in unexpected consequences. Then we may look back and wonder, “Why did I choose that option?” In recent years, neuroscientists have begun to decode the decision-making process. What they’re learning is shedding light not only on how the healthy brain performs complex mental functions, but also on how disorders, such as stroke or drug abuse, affect the process.

Researchers can study decision-making in animals. As monkeys decide which direction a moving target is headed, researchers record the activity in brain cells called neurons. These studies have helped to reveal the basis for how animals and humans make everyday decisions.

Decisions. Decisions. Each day you make thousands of them. Many—what to eat for breakfast or what to wear to a friend’s party—have few, if any, long-lasting consequences. Others—whether to stay in school or look for work—can have a huge impact on the direction of your life.

Neuroscientists have long questioned how the human brain makes decisions, from where to gaze to complex moral judgments. Research suggests that the brain considers various sources of information before making a decision. But how does it do this? And why does the process sometimes go awry, causing us to make impulsive, indecisive, and confused decisions—the kinds that can lead to risky and potentially dangerous behaviors?

Thanks to advances in technology, researchers are beginning to unravel the mysterious processes by which humans make decisions. New research is helping scientists develop:

  • A deeper understanding of how the human brain reasons, plans, and solves problems.
  • Greater insight into how sleep deprivation, drug abuse, neurological disorders, and other factors affect the decision-making process, suggesting new behavioral and therapeutic approaches to improve health.

Our brains appear wired in ways that enable us, often unconsciously, to make the best decisions possible with the information we’re given. In simplest terms, the process is organized like a court trial. Sights, sounds, and other sensory evidence are entered and registered in sensory circuits in the brain. Other brain cells act as the brain’s “jury,” compiling and weighing each piece of evidence. When the accumulated evidence reaches a critical threshold, a judgment—a decision—is made.

Read More at BrainFacts.org

Recommended reading:How We Decide

Who’s in Charge:Free Will and the Science of the Brain [ WHO’S IN CHARGE?: FREE WILL AND THE SCIENCE OF THE BRAIN BY Gazzaniga, Michael S ( Author ) Nov-15-2011[/amazon_image]

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