If choosing the right
outfit or whether to invest in stocks or bonds is difficult, it may not
be just indecisiveness but how brain cells assign values to different
items, scientists said on Sunday.

at Harvard Medical School in Boston have identified neurons, or brain
cells, that seem to play a role in how a person selects different items
or goods.

The image “http://www.wonderquest.com/BrainCells.htg/BrainCells1.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Scientists
have known that cells in different parts of the brain react to
attributes such as colour, taste or quantity. Dr Camillo
Padaoa-Schioppa and John Assad, an associate professor of neurobiology,
found neurons involved in assigning values that help people to make

neurons we have identified encode the value individuals assign to the
available items when they make choices based on subjective preferences,
a behaviour called economic choice,” Padoa-Schioppa said in a statement.

scientists, who reported the findings in the journal Nature, located
the neurons in an area of the brain known as the orbitofrontal cortex
(OFC) while studying macaque monkeys which had to choose between
different flavours and quantities of juices.

correlated the animals’ choices with the activity of neurons in the OFC
with the valued assigned to the different types of juices. Some neurons
would be highly active when the monkeys selected three drops of grape
juice, for example, or 10 drops of apple juice.

The image “http://www.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/multimedia/picture/images/html/nrc-ibs_astrocytes-lr.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Other neurons encoded the value of only the orange juice or grape juice.

“The monkey’s choice may be based on the activity of these neurons,” said Padoa-Schioppa.

research involving the OFC showed that lesions in the area seem to have
an association with eating disorders, compulsive gambling and unusual
social behaviour.

new findings show an association between the activity of the OFC and
the mental valuation process underlying choice behaviour, according to
the scientists.