Complex Learning and Decision Making within a Medical Context
My research interests include complex learning and decision making. Specifically, I am interested in how humans optimize these systems, and what factors influence them. To do this, it is important for me to discern underlying processes by utilizing neural imaging techniques such as electroencephalography (EEG). I am continuing my research into real-world, complex environments to examine how humans learn and make decisions when there is an abundance of information. One direction I am currently pursuing is that of medical decision making as this research has many promising applications.
With more complex environments, a multitude of processes will need to be recruited for optimal functioning. Thus event-related brain potential components will be useful to conceptually define and anatomically localize all of the mechanisms involved in learning and decision making in unknown environments. An example of a complex environment that would require optimal functioning is that of diagnosing clinical cases. In one field of my research, I present participants that have no medical training with a reinforcement learning paradigm called “Cards”. These cards contain physiological readings (e.g., Alkaline Phosphatase Level) which participants use to diagnose clinical cases (e.g., Cholestatic Intrahepatic). With the use of EEGs, I am able to discern the underlying components not only of learning, but also of decision making when presented with an abundance of information.
In the future, this research can extend from the laboratory to the hospital with the use of portable EEG systems. We can recruit medical students and clinicians to analyze how they learn and make decisions in real-world clinical settings. This will help determine any influencing factors of learning and decision making in complex medical settings. The applicability of this research is endless. Demonstrating effective reinforcement approaches to learning and decision making can be useful not only in the medical community but also across a variety of contexts including universities and parenting. Thus this stream of research can examine theoretical understandings of necessary human processes, but also demonstrate how one could use this information to better educate and make decisions.