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Biol Psychiatry. 2012 Jul 15;72(2):87-92. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2012.02.029.

Neuroeconomics: a bridge for translational research.

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Department of Psychology, University of Houston, Houston, TX 77204, USA.


Neuroeconomic methods combine behavioral economic experiments to parameterize aspects of reward-related decision-making with neuroimaging techniques to record corresponding brain activity. In this introductory article to the current special issue, we propose that neuroeconomics is a potential bridge for translational research in psychiatry for several reasons. First, neuroeconomics-derived theoretical predictions about optimal adaptation in a changing environment provide an objective metric to examine psychopathology. Second, neuroeconomics provides a "multilevel" research approach that combines performance (behavioral) measures with intermediate measures between behavior and neurobiology (e.g., neuroimaging) and uses a common metaphor to describe decision-making across multiple levels of explanation. As such, ecologically valid behavioral paradigms closely mirror the physical mechanisms of reward processing. Third, neuroeconomics provides a platform for investigators from neuroscience, economics, psychiatry, and social and clinical psychology to develop a common language for studying reward-related decision making in psychiatric disorders. Therefore, neuroeconomics can provide promising candidate endophenotypes that might help clarify the basis of high heritability associated with psychiatric disorders and that might, in turn, inform treatment.

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