Decisions, Uncertainty, and the Brain
In this provocative book, Paul Glimcher argues that economic theory may provide an alternative to the classical Cartesian model of the brain and behavior. Glimcher argues that Cartesian dualism operates from the false premise that the reflex is able to describe behavior in the real world that animals inhabit. A mathematically rich cognitive theory, he claims, could solve the most difficult problems that any environment could present, eliminating the need for dualism by eliminating the need for a reflex theory. Such a mathematically rigorous description of the neural processes that connect sensation and action, he explains, will have its roots in microeconomic theory. Economic theory allows physiologists to define both the optimal course of action that an animal might select and a mathematical route by which that optimal solution can be derived. Glimcher outlines what an economics-based cognitive model might look like and how one would begin to test it empirically. Along the way, he presents a fascinating history of neuroscience. He also discusses related questions about determinism, free will, and the stochastic nature of complex behavior.
About the Author
Paul W. Glimcher is Associate Professor of Neural Science and Psychology at the Center for Neural Science, New York University.
“Decisions, Uncertainty, and the Brain is a worthwhile book.”—William H. Redmond, Journal of Economic Issues
“The book is an absorbing introduction to the emerging field of neuroeconomics, which combines economic concepts with the study of brains and behavior in humans and animals. Decisions, Uncertainty, and the Brain makes a strong case that the marriage of neuroscience's history and of philosophical implications of neuroeconomics.”—Kenneth Silber, Tech Central Station
“This book will surely ignite discussion and soul searching among serious neuroscientists...”—P. Read, Montague Nature
“Glimcher has achieved an extraordinary synthesis of perspectives that have remained isolated for far too long. He views the brain as a system designed to maximise neither pleasure nor social or economic success, but biological fitness instead. He goes on to show why this matters in fields as disparate as psychology, economics and his own field of neurobiology. This is an impressive and highly readable journey through vast areas of scientific and philosophical knowledge.”
—Alex Kacelnik, Professor of Behavioural Ecology, Oxford University
“Glimcher does extraordinary neuroscience and relates it to the most fundamental of all questions: how the brain makes decisions. His use of game theory to characterize decision making in both humans and monkeys under conditions of strategic conflict is unique. What could be more important than studying the neurobiological basis of volitional choice in earnest? The implications and applications of his work are singular.”
—Michael S. Gazzaniga, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Dartmouth College