My PhD student, Meropi Topalidou, will defend her PhD thesis about the “Neuroscience of decision making: from goal-directed actions to habits” at 14h00 in the Ada Lovelace room at the Inria Bordeaux Sud-Ouest center.

Action-outcome and stimulus-response processes are two important components of behavior. The former evaluates the benefit of an action in order to choose the best action among those available (action selection) while the latter is responsible for automatic behavior, eliciting a response as soon as a known stimulus is present. Such habits are generally associated (and mostly opposed) to goal-directed actions that require a deliberative process to evaluate the best option to take in order to reach a given goal. Using a computational model, we investigated the classic hypothesis of habits formation and expression in the basal ganglia and propose a new role for both the basal ganglia (BG) and the cortex. The computational model of the basal ganglia-thalamus-cortex uses segregated loops (motor, cognitive and associative) and makes the hypothesis that BG are necessary for the acquisition of habits but habits can be later expressed without the BG. Those results have been confirmed experimentally and tend to reverse the old idea that automatism is a subcortical feature.