It was already thought that the subthalamic nucleus might play an important role in balancing the opposing demands of speed and accuracy during decision-making. Scientists suspected that it helped us delay decisions for the optimum amount of time, to enable the best choice to be made in any given situation. But our own research reveals that this part of the brain gets involved in adjusting these ‘decision thresholds’ at a very particular and brief moment during the process of deliberation.
The aim of our new study was to probe the mechanisms by which the subthalamic nucleus influences decision-making. We were able to do this using deep brain stimulation in Parkinson’s patients (an intervention which has been shown to be very successful in alleviating some of the movement symptoms related to this condition).