Segments in this Video

Decisions (02:19)


Dr. David Eagleman shows a patient prepped for neurosurgery who has electrodes attached to his brain to record its activity. These electrodes are attached to a speaker, which plays the sounds of his brain firing off individual neurons as he comes to a decision about a picture shown to him.

How Do I Decide? (03:34)

Deciphering different substances coming into the senses requires decision making, as does deciding what to eat. Dr. Eagleman conducts an experiment on random subjects off the street who list the names of colors painted onto white boards in stencils of color names which sometimes conflict.

Internal Rivalries (03:06)

Sometimes, rival networks inside the brain cannot be resolved, such as in the case of alien hand syndrome, which sometimes occurs after a split brain surgery is used to treat epilepsy. See a patient whose right brain has taken control of her left hand, affecting her motor skills.

Trolley Dilemma (03:42)

Dr. Eagleman conducts an experiment where subjects have to decide whether or not they will pull a lever to save four lives in exchange for one, and then whether they will push a man in order to save four lives in exchange for one.

Rational, Emotional Brain (02:06)

In the trolley dilemma experiment, the logical side of the brain dominates. Detachment from programming a missile allows warfare to be waged easier than if all killings required the bare hands of a soldier.

Disconnect (03:59)

A woman who suffers from brain damage after a motorcycle accident has intense difficulty making simple decisions, like what to cook for dinner. Her emotional response is no longer linked to intellect. As a result, she becomes overwhelmed rapidly and is no longer able to work as an engineer.

Body and Brain (03:06)

To make simple decisions, like choosing which soup to purchase at the supermarket, the body and brain communicate. They work together to attach simple values on each set of data, allowing a decision to be made.

Body Talks (04:00)

In dangerous situations, the body reacts before the rational mind has had time to compute the situation. An experiment called the Iowa Gambling Task reveals that participants have "a hunch" about which decks to draw cards from physiologically before they consciously realize it.

Biological Creatures (03:23)

The body and the brain constantly work together and are therefore essential to one another in decision-making. Human decisions are affected by biological needs and levels.

Fertility (02:25)

An evolutionary psychologist conducted an experiment to determine whether women are more attractive to men when they are most fertile using lap dancers' wages and menstruation cycles. The findings strongly suggested that women are most attractive and therefore earn the most tip money when they are ovulating.

Oxytocin (02:17)

This chemical is responsible for bonds in relationships. In one study, heterosexual men who are in love are given the chemical before being asked to rate the attractiveness of women. The men who had consumed oxytocin found other women less attractive and felt closer to their partners. The bonding chemical works to ensure that children have two parents to look after them.

Correlations (03:19)

An experiment by Read Montague uses disgusting photos to elicit responses in test subjects. The more intense the response, the more likely the candidate is to vote conservatively in presidential elections. With a 95% accuracy, Montague is able to predict how subjects will vote based off of their reaction to images.

Prioritization and Predictions (03:36)

The brain makes predictions in order to make decisions that involve the future. The brain runs simulations of what could happen, and assigns different possibilities and different values. The dopamine system handles this by allowing a steady flow of dopamine through the psyche at all times, and raising or lowering the level when an unexpected outcomes occur.

Instant Gratification (03:20)

People with Parkinson's disease receive a weaker dopamine flow in the brain than they should and are often put on medication to correct the condition. Medication forces their brains to anticipate reward with more gusto, which often leads to addictions to gambling, food, or sex. The present moment feels more real than the imagined future.

Willpower (04:00)

People rely on willpower when instant gratification is tempting the brain. It can be used up like gas, which is why going to the gym is particularly difficult some days and easier on others. Dr. Eagleman uses the Ulysses contract to ensure he gets to the gym by attaching social pressures to the physical exercise.

Drug Dilemmas (02:55)

Sufferers of drug addiction have compromised decision making abilities. Seven tenths of American prisons house drug addicts. Despite two million dollars a year on the drug war enacted by the US government, drug charges are not dropping.

Addiction Correction (03:36)

In Dr. Eagleman's lab, experiments intended to understand and assist recovering drug addicts are underway. A subject looks at images of cocaine in an MRI machine, attempting to get the brain to take control of its own addiction.

Navigate the Now (02:00)

Through neuroscience, it is understood that the brain is made up of multiple competing drives. These drives allow people to navigate the present moment and plan for the future.

Credits: How Do I Decide? Part 4: The Brain with David Eagleman (01:41)

Credits: How Do I Decide? Part 4: The Brain with David Eagleman

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The human brain is the most complex object we’ve discovered in the universe, and every day much of its neural circuitry is taken up with the tens of thousands of decisions we need to make. “How Do I Decide?” is a journey through the unseen world of decisions, and how they get made. We start with a simple one: choosing a flavor of frozen yoghurt, and learn that every decision we make is born of a “winner takes all” competition between rival neural networks. As David ponders the choice before him – mint verses lemon - inside his brain, two rival networks are fighting it out. As one begins to get the upper hand, it causes the other network to be less active, until a threshold is crossed, the decision is made: he goes for mint. Every decision we make is underpinned by this kind of neural conflict, and what’s more, many of these important battles are won, and lost, without us being consciously aware of it. Professor Read Montague reveals that he can be 95% certain about which political party we will vote for based on our brain’s response to disgusting imagery. The more disgusted a brain response is the more likely that person is to vote conservative. Finally, Dr. Eagleman takes a look at how we can take better control of the decisions we make, and uses an exciting new technique called fMRI neuro-feedback to retrain the brains of drug addicts who want to make better decisions, to say “no.” Distributed by PBS Distribution.

Length: 60 minutes

Item#: BVL114671

Copyright date: ©2015

Closed Captioned

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