Columbia University Medical Center


Michael Shadlen, MD, PhD

Michael Shadlen, MD, PhD
  • Department of Neuroscience
  • Professor of Neuroscience

Decisions as a Window on Cognition - The Neural Building Blocks of Thought

The evolution of sophisticated brains has freed us from the immediacy of sensation and action by giving us the capacity for flexible decision-making. The evidence we obtain through our senses (or from memory) need not precipitate an immediate, reflexive response. Instead our decisions are deliberative and provisional, contingent on other sources of information, long-term goals, and values. I believe the principles of brain function that underlie simple forms of reasoning and decision-making are also the building blocks of human cognition.

Brain circuits support integration of evidence from diverse sources (for example, different senses and memory), assign more or less weight to cues that differ in their reliability, calculate expected costs and benefits associated with anticipated outcomes, process elapsed time to meet a deadline or to assess temporal cost, and implement rules (such as deciding on what to decide upon) and policies (balancing accuracy against speed).


Education & Training

  • PhD, Neurobiology, University of California, Berkeley
  • MD, 1988 medicine, Brown University School of Medicine, Providence, RI
  • Residency: 1992 Stanford Medical School
  • Primary Lab Locations

    Jerome L. Greene Science Center

    3227 Broadway
    Quad 5A
    New York, NY 10027

    (212) 305-9941

    Lab Website

    Research Interests

    Synapses and circuits
    Cognitive/Systems neuroscience

    Lab Members