Camillo Padoa-Schioppa, PhD

Professor of Neuroscience

Padoa-Schioppa Lab | Google Scholar Profile | Neurotree


Research

Economic choice takes place when individuals make choices solely based on subjective preferences—for example out of a restaurant menu. Choice behavior is a traditional focus in economics and psychology, and a large body of work shows that human choices suffer from various “fallacies”. Economic choice is also important from a medical perspective, as choice deficits are often observed in patients with neurological disorders of the frontal lobe and in addiction. Research in the Padoa-Schioppa laboratory investigates the cognitive and neuronal mechanisms underlying economic choice. The lab combines behavioral, neurophysiological and computational techniques, focusing in particular on single-cell recordings in non-human primates.

Behavioral evidence indicates that economic choice entails assigning values to the available options—for example, to different items on the menu. Thus a fundamental question is how values are represented in the brain. In recent years, we found that individual neurons in the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) encode the value monkeys assign to different juices when they choose between them. Neurons in the OFC encode the subjective value, as opposed to any physical property of the juice. The representation of value in this area is rather abstract. The activity of OFC neurons does not depend on the visuo-motor contingencies of choice, and it is invariant for changes of menu. In other words, the activity encoding the value of one particular good does not depend on what other goods are available at the same time. Such menu invariance may underlie preference transitivity, a fundamental trait of economic choice.

Current work seeks to address some fundamental and open questions. How does the representation of value in the OFC adapt to different behavioral contexts? Are values also represented in other brain areas, and how do neurons in OFC and other brain regions generate a decision? Can choice fallacies and choice deficits observed in frontal patients and drug addicts be explained by the neurobiology of these neuronal populations?


Selected publications

  • Ballesta S*, Shi W*, Conen KE and Padoa-Schioppa C (2020). Values encoded in orbitofrontal cortex are causally related to economic choices. Nature 588, 450-453. (* equal contribution)
  • Kuwabara M, Kang N, Holy TE and Padoa-Schioppa C (2020). Neural mechanisms of economic choices in mice. eLife2020, 9, e49669.
  • Rustichini A, Conen KE, Cai X and Padoa-Schioppa C (2017). Optimal coding and neuronal adaptation in economic decisions. Nature Communications 8, 1208.
  • Xie J and Padoa-Schioppa C (2016). Neuronal remapping and circuit persistence in economic decisions. Nature Neuroscience 19: 855-61. PMCID 4882218
  • Padoa-Schioppa C (2013). Neuronal origins of choice variability in economic decisions. Neuron 80, 1322-36. PMCID 3857585
  • Padoa-Schioppa C (2009). Range-adapting representation of economic value in the orbitofrontal cortex. Journal of Neuroscience 29, 14004-14. PMCID 19890010
  • Padoa-Schioppa C and Assad JA (2006). Neurons in orbitofrontal cortex encode economic value. Nature 441, 223-226. PMCID 16177830

See a complete list of Dr. Padoa-Schioppa’s publications on PubMed.


Education

1996 Laurea (MS), Statistical Physics , Universita’ La Sapienza, Rome, Italy

2002 PhD, Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

2008 Post-doctorate, Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School


Selected honors

2003-2004 Edward R. and Anne G. Lefler Postdoctoral Fellowship

2005-2007 Harvard Mind/Brain/Behavior Postdoctoral Fellowship

2005-2007 Charles A. King Trust Postdoctoral Fellowship (declined)

2007-2011 Pathway to Independence Award (National Institute of Mental Health)

2010-2013 Whitehall Foundation Research Grant

2011 Society for Neuroeconomics Young Investigator Award

2015 Washington University School of Medicine Distinguished Faculty Award