Magnetoencephalographic signals identify stages in real-life decision processes

Braeutigam, Sven; Stins, John F.; Rose, Steven P.R.; Swithenby, Stephen J. and Ambler, Tim (2001). Magnetoencephalographic signals identify stages in real-life decision processes. Neural Plasticity, 8(4) pp. 241–254.



We used magnetoencephalography (MEG) to study the dynamics of neural responses in eight subjects engaged in shopping for day-today items from supermarket shelves. This behavior not only has personal and economic importance but also provides an example of an experience that is both personal and shared between individuals. The shopping experience enables the exploration of neural mechanisms underlying choice based on complex memories. Choosing among different brands of closely related products activated a robust sequence of signals within the first second after the presentation of the choice images. This sequence engaged first the visual cortex (80-100 ms), then as the images were analyzed, predominantly the left temporal regions (310-340 ms). At longer latency, characteristic neural activetion was found in motor speech areas (500-520 ms) for images requiring low salience choices with respect to previous (brand) memory, and in right parietal cortex for high salience choices (850-920 ms). We argue that the neural processes associated with the particular brand-choice stimulus can be separated into identifiable stages through observation of MEG responses and knowledge of functional anatomy.

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