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Angels and devils: A Stanford neuroscientist uncodes the brain’s role in decision-making

Stanford neuroscientist and psychiatrist Robert Malenka, MD, PhD, launched his address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland earlier this year with a big question: "Why do we do the things that we do?"

Jeepers, he got me hooked. And, in a mere 6 minutes and 22 seconds, he did a good job of answering. He covered the basics: the role of neural circuitry, the neurotransmitter dopamine and what goes wrong in diseases like addiction, depression and autism.

He also expressed optimistic about the role scientists can play to tilt our collective decision-making toward good, not bad:

I passionately believe that the brain is what mediates our feelings, our thoughts and our behaviors.

I do believe that by understanding the mechanisms that cause these experiences and make us make good decisions — but often very bad decisions — that we will be able to not only cure diseases, but we will improve society and I think we desperately need to do that.

His talk was part of the IdeasLab series hosted by the World Economic Forum.

Previously: Step by step: Study pinpoints brain connection required for performing serial tasks, "Love hormone" may mediate wider range of relationships than previously thought and Neuroscientists dream big, come up with ideas for prosthetics, mental health, stroke and more

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