Scientific Research Network on Decision Neuroscience and Aging

A multidisciplinary science of decision making across the lifespan

Unprecedented demographic changes are on the horizon that will drastically and rapidly increase the relative number of older adults across the globe. A larger proportion of older decision-makers in the population will have tremendous economic and social impact. Anticipating and addressing these historically unprecendented changes will require an increase in scientific research on decision making across the life span using radically new and integrative approaches.

Decision neuroscience is an emerging field that aims to integrate economics, finance, marketing, psychology, neuroscience, computer science, and public policy (among other fields) to study decision making through team-based, multidisciplinary research. Although this field has only recently developed, the combination of methods and expertise has already produced high-impact basic research with translational implications.

Using the decision neuroscience approach as a model, the Scientific Research Network on Decision Neuroscience and Aging will focus generally on combining multiple scientific disciplines for the study of decision making across the life course, but will also focus on expanding the scope of research in this area for studying not only financial decisions but also health-related and social decision making across adulthood. The network will focus on growth, development, and sustainability through scientific meetings, conferences, methods workshops, and small grant competitions.

The integrative decision neuroscience approach has tremendous potential for scientific and societal impact. We are currently at a unique moment in human history where demographic changes are and will continue to drastically alter the profile of decision makers in the global population. To the extent that this emerging field can respond to the immediate demand for integrative and translational research, scientists have the potential to make major contributions to improving the well being of humans across the life span.

The networks directors include:

Gregory Samanez-Larkin, PhD
Psychological Sciences, Vanderbilt University

Laura L. Carstensen, PhD
Psychology, Stanford University; Director, Stanford Center on Longevity

Samuel McClure, PhD
Psychology and Neuroscience, Stanford University

David Laibson, PhD
Economics, Harvard University

Camelia Kuhnen, PhD
Finance, Northwestern University

The network was funded through a 5 year grant by NIH in 2010, and was stimulated by a launch conference sponsored by the Center in April 2010, called “Measurement of Cognitive Ability in Aging Populations.”

In September 2011, the network hosted a training workshop focused on multilevel regression at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern. In early February 2012, two $15,000 pilot grants were awarded to research teams new to the decision neuroscience of aging. With these grants, a group from UCLA is exploring the neural systems that support motivational manipulations of memory and applications to real world economic decision making and a group from Temple University is developing a set of laboratory tasks to measure aspects of complex economic decisions such decumulation behavior. Additional Year 2 activities included publishing a review volume in the Annals of the NYAS and publishing a research topic in Frontiers in Neuroscience.

In early May 2013, the network co-sponsored a scientific meeting in Washington, D.C. focused on mechanisms of motivation and cognition across adulthood and into old age.  The talks and discussion during the conference will be used to generate a book and other publications that will be disseminated widely to the scientific community to inspire the next generation of research on this topic. On May 22, 2013 network members participated in a one-day White House workshop on Psychological Science and Behavioral Economics in the Service of Public Policy. The network provided travel support for a select group of emerging leaders in policy-relevant science in areas related to psychology and/or economics. In August 2013, two $20,000 seed grants were awarded to research teams new to the area of decision neuroscience and aging.