Nathaniel Daw
Human Neuroscience
Human Neuroscience

Huo Professor in Computational and Theoretical Neuroscience. Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology.


Areas of Research: Reward, learning, and decision making.
Research Lab
237 PNI

Research Focus

Our lab studies how people and animals learn from trial and error (and from rewards and punishments) to make decisions, combining computational, neural, and behavioral perspectives. We focus on understanding how subjects cope with computationally demanding decision situations, such as choice under uncertainty or in tasks (such as spatial navigation or games like chess) requiring many decisions to be made sequentially. These are problems long studied by researchers in machine learning, and we draw on algorithms from this field for detailed, quantitative hypotheses about how the brain might approach these problems. Current projects include investigating how the brain controls its own decision-making computations -- in effect, making higher-level decisions about issues like how long to deliberate or when to simply act -- and how these processes might be implicated in issues of self control and in psychiatric disorders involving compulsion.

Selected Publications

  • Vikbladh, O.M., Meager, M.R., King, J., Blackmon, K., Devinsky, O., Shohamy, D., Burgess., N., and Daw, N.D. (2019) Hippocampal contributions to model-based planning and spatial memory. Neuron 102:683-693.
  • Mattar, M.G., and Daw, N.D. (2018) Prioritized memory access explains planning and hippocampal replay. Nature Neuroscience 21:1609-1617.
  • Gillan, C.M., Kosinski, R.W., Phelps, E.A., and Daw, N.D. (2016) Characterizing a psychological dimension related to deficits in goal-directed control. eLife 5 pii: e11305.
  • Doll, B.B., Duncan, K.D., Simon, D.A., Shohamy, D.S., and Daw, N.D., (2015) Model-based choices involve prospective neural activity. Nature Neuroscience 18:767-72.
  • Shohamy, D., and Daw, N.D. (2015) Integrating memories to guide decisions. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences 5:85-90.
  • Huys, Q.J., Daw, N.D., and Dayan, P. (2015) Depression: A decision theoretic analysis. Annual Reviews of Neuroscience 8:1-23.
  • Otto, A.R., Gershman, S.J., Markman, A.M, and Daw, N.D. (2013) The curse of planning: Dissecting multiple reinforcement learning systems by taxing the central executive. Psychological Science 24:751-761.
  • Li, J. Schiller, D., Schoenbaum, G., Phelps, E.A. and Daw, N.D. (2011) Differential roles of human striatum and amygdala in associative learning. Nature Neuroscience 14:1250-1252.
  • Daw, N.D., Gershman, S.J., Seymour, B., Dayan, P., and Dolan, R.J. (2011) Model-based influences on humans’ choices and striatal prediction errors. Neuron 69:1204-1215.  


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