Humans and animals spend a lot of time exploring novel objects even though this has no extrinsic award—we seek out novelty for novelty’s sake. Although curiosity is a well-known characteristic of primates, the neural mechanisms driving the behavior are poorly understood. Ilya Monosov, PhD, Associate Professor of Neuroscience at Washington University School of Medicine, has received a $2 million R01 award from the National Institutes of Health to identify the computations and neural circuits that link novelty- and reward-seeking circuits together to produce intelligent behavior.
The Monosov Lab has generated profound insights into how the brain drives an animal to seek out information and how uncertainty influences that behavior. Their work to dissect the neural circuitry responsible for behaviors related to novelty-, reward- and information-seeking not only satisfies the need to understand the basis of learning and decision-making, but could identify pathways that become dysfunctional in psychiatric disorders such as addiction and obsessive compulsive disorder. Understanding the architecture that supports adaptive novelty seeking in humans and animals will also expand our understanding of how to design artificial systems capable of producing adaptive curiosity and exploration-related behavior when confronted with novelty and uncertainty—an ongoing challenge in AI and machine learning.
Interested in this research? The Monosov Lab is hiring!