Re: poly: Neural basis of utility estimation

From: Robin Hanson <>
Date: Thu Feb 26 1998 - 10:18:19 PST

Anders writes:
>A fun paper I found:
> author = {P. Shizgal},
> title = {Neural basis of utility estimation},

>Essentially it looks at how animals (mainly rats) choose to allocate
>their activity. Among other things, it mentions an experiment where
>rats do simple economic optimization: they have a fixed 'budget' of
>responses, and can 'buy' different reinforcers such as sugar water,
>salt or brain stimulation. The experiment shows that MFB stimulation
>is an effective substitute for both water and food, while the rat
>regards water and food as complements to each other. Very fun.
>If one is to believe the review article, there might very well be a
>fairly simply utility-calculation system underlying much of our
>behavior, with a neural basis possible to explore.

Economists did these sorts of experiments decades ago, minus the direct
brain stimulation. I don't see how adding that commodity really tells
us anything new. But then I haven't read the article.

Robin Hanson
RWJF Health Policy Scholar, Sch. of Public Health 510-643-1884
140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 FAX: 510-643-8614
Received on Thu Feb 26 18:25:11 1998

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