Understanding How We Learn: Columbia’s Mind Brain Behavior Initiative

From who we marry to how we invest to the words we type, some of our most important decisions are based on how we process instantaneous feedback.

Daphna Shohamy, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology and founder and director of The Learning Lab at the Columbia University Mind Brain Behavior Initiative, focused on how the brain supports learning, memory, and decision-making in a lecture hosted by the initiative and sponsored by the Dana Foundation.

Shohamy began by showing two images side-by-side, one freezing terrain and the other, a sun-filled beach. She explained that at age 10, her family moved from Minneapolis to Tel Aviv, and the images depicted both environments. The stark differences between the cultures and her surroundings led her to wonder about the way we learn, and sent her on an academic path that would begin at Tel-Aviv University and include graduate work at Rutgers and Stanford universities before moving to Columbia University five years ago.

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The Deliberating Brain: Columbia’s Mind Brain Behavior Initiative

Not long ago, my editor asked if I wanted to cover a lecture
by a premier neuroscience researcher on the fascinating topic of “the
deliberating brain,” preceded by cocktails at one of New York’s most elegant
old hotels.

As decisions go, I thought, this was a no-brainer.

But I was wrong. One thing that Dana Alliance member Michael
N. Shadlen, M.D., Ph.D., made very clear in his talk, hosted by the Columbia
University Mind Brain Behavior Initiative
 and sponsored by the Dana
Foundation, is that no decision is a no-brainer. “By understanding the building
blocks of decision making,” he told his audience, “we can understand how the
brain achieves cognition writ large.”

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