Please note: there may be some adjustments to the teaching arrangements published in the course catalogue for 2020-21. Given current circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic it is anticipated that some usual arrangements for teaching on campus will be modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff on campus; further adjustments may also be necessary, or beneficial, during the course of the academic year as national requirements relating to management of the pandemic are revised.

Neuroscience of Decision Making 4H PSYCH4064

  • Academic Session: 2022-23
  • School: School of Psychology and Neuroscience
  • Credits: 10
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes
  • Available to Erasmus Students: Yes

Short Description

This course provides an introduction to the neuroscience of decision making in the human and non-human primate brains. In particular it provides an overview of the brain networks as well as the mechanistic details of how perceptual and reward-based decisions are implemented in the brain.


10 hours over a 5 week block

Requirements of Entry

Successful completion of Level 3H Psychology single honours

Excluded Courses



Examination 100% you will answer 1 question from a choice of 3

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

This course provides an introduction to the neuroscience of decision making, in particular the neural principles underlying perceptual as well as reward- and value-based decisions. Perceptual decisions involve choices based on ambiguous sensory evidence whereas reward- and value-based decisions hinge largely on probabilistic evidence and subjective preferences associated with potential choices. In addition, the role of training in perceptual decision making and the influence of reinforcement-learning in reward-based choices are discussed in the context of optimising decision-related processing. Important methodological considerations on how the relevant neural data are collected and analysed, including some computational modelling work, are also explored. The course draws mostly on recent research reports from both the human and non-human primate literature to illustrate the brain networks and the fundamental principles underlying decision-related processing and their relevance to interpreting neurophysiological and neuroimaging experiments and to understanding brain function in health and disease.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ evaluate the main principles guiding different forms of decision making problems (e.g. perceptual vs reward-based decisions), identify the relevant brain networks implementings such decisions and explain how these can go astray in brain trauma or disease

■ evaluate the main principles and neural networks involved in reinforcement learning during perceptual and reward-based decision making

■ evaluate the main principles of sequential sampling models of decision making

■ design simple behavioural paradigms to probe the behavioural and neural correlates of decision making and recognise how interventional techniques (TMS, electrical stimulation, brain lesions) are used to establish causal relationships in neural networks

■ evaluate the influence of important decision modulators (e.g. confidence, speed-accuracy-tradeoff, expert advice, risk, time, genes, etc) on behavioural choice

■ distinguish different analytical approaches for data analysis and different human neuroimaging techniques for data acquisition and appraise their (dis-) advantages 

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.