Events picture

Special Guest Lecture January 25, 2013, 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm WPIC Auditorium

All That Glitters is Not Gold:
Distinct Representations of Salience and Value in the Primate Brain

Carl Olson  Carl Olson, PhD

   Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience
   Center for the Neural Basis 
of Cognition
Carnegie Mellon University 





Researchers in Dr. Olson’s laboratory study the brain mechanisms of cognition by recording from single neurons in the cerebral cortex of behaving monkeys. Their interests include the executive control of behavior. Executive control - deciding what to do moment by moment - depends on considering the consequences associated with particular actions and selecting the action that gives rise to the best outcome. Dr. Olson and his colleagues study the neural mechanisms of executive control by recording from neurons in frontal and parietal cortex while monkeys choose among cues that predict different rewards and penalties. Neurons in some areas signal the importance of a cue (firing strongly if it predicts either a big reward or a big penalty). These neurons presumably contribute to the capture of attention by important events. Neurons in other areas signal the value of a cue (firing strongly if it predicts a reward and weakly if it predicts a penalty). These neurons presumably contribute to value-based decision-making. The long-term aim of this research is to map out the neural processing stages by which emotional states are transformed into attention and behavioral decisions.

Learning Objectives:  Following the lecture, attendees will be able to:

1.  Understand that value-based decision-making depends on a far-flung network of cortical areas.
2.  Briefly describe how the representation of value is a function of limbic areas such as orbitofrontal cortex.
3.  Understand how the capture of attention by emotionally loaded stimuli depends on parietal cortex.

Continuing Education Credit: The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine designates this educational activity for a maximum of 1.5 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits TM. Each physician should only claim credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Other health care professionals are awarded .15 continuing education units (CEUs), which are equal to 1.5 contact hours. In accordance with Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education requirements on disclosure, information about relationships of presenters with commercial interests (if any) will be included in materials which will be distributed at the time of the conference.  WPIC is approved by the American Psychological Association to offer continuing education for psychologists.  WPIC maintains responsibility for this program and its contents.  This program is being offered for 1.5 continuing education credits.

Please contact Jeanie Knox Houtsinger at for more information about the Department of Psychiatry lecture series.