Neuroeconomic Approaches to Mental Disorders


The pervasiveness of decision-making in every area of human endeavor highlights the importance of under-standing choice mechanisms and their detailed relationship to underlying neurobiological function. This review surveys the recent and productive application of game-theoretic probes (economic games) to mental disorders. Such games typically possess concrete concepts of optimal play, thus providing quantitative ways to track when subjects’ choices match or deviate from optimal. This feature equips economic games with natural classes of control signals that should guide learning and choice in the agents that play them. These signals and their underlying physical correlates in the brain are now being used to generate objective biomarkers that may prove useful for exposing and understanding the neurogenetic basis of normal and pathological human cognition. Thus, game-theoretic probes represent some of the first steps toward producing computationally principled, objective measures of cognitive function and dysfunction useful for the diagnosis, treatment, and understanding of mental disorders.