Claremont's Center for Neuroeconomics Awards First Paper Prize

Director Paul J. Zak says Vanderbilt student Josh Buckholtz nailed his research

Claremont, CA, August 10, 2007 --( Claremont Graduate University’s Center for Neuroeconomic Studies has announced its first-ever graduate student prize for outstanding research in neuroeconomics. The $1,000 award went to Joshua W. Buckholtz for his paper, “The Neural Basis of Legal Decision-Making.”

Buckholtz, a student at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, said he is thrilled to be a part of the cutting-edge field of neuroeconomics, which he says represents a huge step forward in our understanding of human behavior.

“I believe that the application of multiple neuroscientific tools—like genetics, neuroimaging, and neuropsychological investigation—to the study of human social and economic behavior, holds real promise for appreciating how the brain makes social and economic decisions and how this ability may have evolved throughout the history of our species,” Buckholz said.

Buckholtz was assisted on the paper by Christopher L. Asplund, Paul E. Dux, David H. Zald, John C. Gore, Owen D. Jones and Rene Marois. The winning paper was an innovative approach to studying legal decision making, and judges were impressed with its use of functional neuroimaging (fMRI) to understand how the brain makes decisions about legal situations.

Paul J. Zak, Director of the Center of Neuroecomonic Studies, said the prize was initiated as a way to reward outstanding graduate studies in neuroeconomics.

“As one of the founders of neuroeconomics, I feel an obligation to support young people who are doing excellent research in this area,” Zak said. “Because these scholars may fall between traditional disciplinary boundaries, recognizing their courage to undertake risky research, and rewarding those who do so extraordinarily well is important to the development of neuroeconomics. The scholars who win this annual prize are those who will sustain neuroeconomics through this century as we expand our understanding of how we make decisions in an effort to improve decisions and society as a whole.”

About The Center for Neuroeconomic Studies

The Center for Neuroeconomic Studies (CNS) at Claremont Graduate University (CGU) is a laboratory that applies research methods in neuroscience to understand how people make decisions. Directed by Paul J. Zak, much of the lab’s current research focuses the neurophysiology of social decisions producing cooperation or conflict. This exciting new field is delivering fascinating new findings that are identifying how our brains enable us to make decisions involving money as well as decisions involving other people. The goal of CNS is to help us make better decisions and identify why those who consistently make bad decisions do so. The CNS is one of only five labs in the world solely devoted to neuroeconomics research.

Claremont Graduate University
Nikolaos Johnson