Special Colloquium - Prof Jan Peters

Prospection and Exploration in Decision-making


Impairments in decision-making contribute to a range of pressing public health issues, including substance-based and non-substance-based addictions (e.g. gambling), as well as weight issues like obesity. In his talk Prof Peters will outline recent work addressing both of these issues. He will focus on self-control in the context of temporal discounting, a behavioral marker associated with a range of problematic behaviors. Temporal discounting is malleable in the sense that it is at least to some degree under contextual control (Lempert & Phelps, 2016). Prof Peters will present data suggesting a link between temporal discounting and processes related to prospection and will show how activation of vivid mental imagery of future outcomes can reduce temporal discounting. He will briefly highlight ongoing studies that examine the effects of perturbations in meso-cortico-limbic circuits (e.g. due to deep brain stimulation), which suggest an opposite direction of influence (i.e. decreasing rather than increasing self-control).

Prof Peters will also discuss behavioral impairments in gambling addiction, focusing on a distinct but related process central to decision-making in dynamic environments: the regulation of the balance between exploration and exploitation. He will also highlight his recent work addressing the state-dependency of food choice. Sleep deprivation is known to be associated with an increased obesity risk, with potential contributions of hormonal factors related to food intake. His results confirm an effect of sleep-deprivation on food choice and highlight a role of hypothalamic circuits, but suggest that hormonal effects likely play a lesser role than previously thought. Prof Peters will close by outlining future directions of hid work, including the application of virtual reality methods to decision research in gambling addiction, projects aimed to clarify the mechanisms of contextual modulation of temporal discounting and applications of quantitative text analysis methods to prospection research.

Speaker Bio:

Prof Jan Peters is an expert in the field of Decision Science. He completed his undergraduate studies in Cognitive Science at both the University of Osnabruck in Germany and the Middle East Technical University in Turkey. In 2007, he completed his PhD at the Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany. In the following years, Prof Peters worked as a Postdoctorate Research Fellow and Research Group Leader under Prof. Christian Buchel at the University Medical Center in Hamburg, Germany. From 2013 to 2014, he was a Visiting Scholar under Prof. Mark D’Esposito at the University of California in Berkeley, USA. In recent years, Professor Peters returned to the University Medical Center in Hamburg to take up the position of Independent Emmy Noether Research Group Leader, before transitioning to his current position of Professor for Biological Psychology, at the University of Cologne, Germany.