Prof. Dr. Tobias Kalenscher

Research Interest

We make decisions all the time. Sometimes, these decisions are rather mundane, such as whether to have coffee or tea for breakfast, but sometimes our decisions can have very important consequences, such as what career to pursue or how to invest our money. Usually, we are pretty good in making these kind of decisions, but sometimes we make decisions that are not consistent with our actual interests. Such irrational choices violate mathematical models in economics and psychology that prescribe how we should make decisions, but apparently fail to capture the reality of decision making.

Curiously, not only humans behave this way, but many of the behavioral violations of economic principles can be found in animal behavior, too, suggesting that there are evolutionary roots to the way we make decisions. This leads to the idea that the development of economic principles must have taken place at an early level in the course of evolution and served as functions that benefitted the survival of species.

Our research deals with the neural and mental underpinnings of economic choices, and violations of economic principles. We use animal and human models to approach these questions. The comparison of animal and human behaviour allows shedding light on the evolutionary pressures that shaped the decision patterns we observe today. To this end, we apply various behavioural and neuroscientific techniques, including lesion studies, psychopharmacology, tetrode recordings (single unit and local field potentials) and functional magnetic resonance imaging.

Selected Publications

1. Kalenscher T, van Wingerden M (2011) Why we should use animals to study economic decision making – a perspective. Frontiers in Neuroscience 5:1-11. undefinedPubMed

2. Kalenscher T, Tobler PN, Huijbers W, Daselaar SM and Pennartz CA (2010) Neural signatures of intransitive preferences. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 4:49. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2010.00049 undefinedPubMed

3. van der Meer M, Kalenscher T, Lansink CS, Pennartz CMA, Berke JD, Redish AD (2010). Integrating early results on ventral striatal gamma oscillations in the rat. Front. Neurosci. 4:28. doi:10.3389/fnins.2010.00028 undefinedPubMed

4. Kalenscher T, Lansink CS, Lankelma JV, Pennartz CMA (2010). Reward-associated gamma oscillations in ventral striatum are regionally differentiated and modulate local firing activity. J Neurophys, 103, 1658-1672. undefinedPubMed

5. Kalenscher T, Pennartz CMA (2010). Do intransitive choices reflect genuinely context-dependent preferences or noisily implemented values? In: Phelps E, Delgado M, Robbins T (ed.). Proceedings of the XXIII. Attention & Performance Symposium. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

6. Kalenscher T, Pennartz CMA (2008). Is a bird in the hand worth two in the future? The neuroeconomics of inter-temporal decision making. Progr Neurobiol, 84, 284-315. undefinedPubMed

7. Tobler PN, Kalenscher T (2007). Awefully afraid? Dissociating decision- from motor- and sensory-related brain activation during perceptual choices. J Neurosci, 27, 6081-6082. undefinedPubMed

8. Kalenscher T (2007). Decision Making: Don’t risk a delay. Curr Biol, 17, R58-R61. undefinedPubMed

9. Kalenscher T, Ohmann T, Windmann S, Freund N, Güntürkün O (2006). Single forebrain neurons represent interval timing and reward amount during response scheduling. Eur J Neurosci, 24, 2923-2931. undefinedPubMed

10. Kalenscher T, Windmann S, Diekamp B, Rose J, Güntürkün O, Colombo M (2005). Single units in the pigeon brain integrate reward amount and time-to-reward in an impulsive choice task. Curr Biol, 15, 594-602. undefinedPubMed

Prof. Dr.
Tobias Kalenscher

Comparative Psychology

Prof. Dr. Tobias Kalenscher

Comparative Psychology
Institute of Experimental Psychology
Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf
Universitätsstrasse 1
40225 Düsseldorf
Tel.: +49 211 81-11607
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