Neurobiologie von Entscheidungsprozessen

Neurobiology of Decision Making 


Given the vast number of behavioral options that are usually available in an everyday life situation, how do we - and thus our brain - decide which option to go for? (i) How is the selected behavior generated and optimized? (ii) And how does our brain predict the sensory consequences of that behavior, allowing us to perceptually distinguish sensory events that we have caused from externally produced sensations? Using psychophysical techniques and functional imaging studies, my laboratory aims to give answers to these questions. Moreover, we try to clarify whether specific symptoms of neurological and psychiatric diseases might reflect a disorder of these cognitive processes under investigation.

Ad (i): To isolate the brain processes that underlie the generation of goal directed behavior we resort to functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during so-called delayed response tasks, which allow temporally separating planning processes from both sensory context and the motor acts they produce. Using this technique we could demonstrate that, already at the level of human posterior parietal cortex, plans for upcoming actions are encoded and modulated by decision variables such as reward and punishment. Based on these findings we currently test the idea that posterior parietal cortex might be a crucial substrate for decision making.

Ad (ii): A second line of research tries to explain both mechanisms and disorders of our ability to attribute causal agency to the sensory consequences of one's behavior. For instance, schizophrenia patients often form delusional beliefs that "external forces" make them speak or move, the common denominator being that self-produced sensory events are misinterpreted as externally caused. We have been able to demonstrate that the strength of these symptoms is explained by patient's ability to predict the sensory consequences of their own actions. Using such sensory predictions, a healthy subject can isolate the sensory information for which she is responsible for. The same mechanism also allows healthy individuals to attribute causal agency to error information, enabling one to specifically correct for only those mistakes which one is responsible for. What is the neural substrate of sensory predictions? While we have been successful in identifying the cerebellum as the substrate that enables subjects to constantly optimize sensory predictions in both the motor and the perceptual domain - we now try to reveal the neural underpinnings that generate sensory predictions in the first place by means of functional imaging and patient studies.

To address our research questions we mainly perform psychophysical experiments and functional imaging studies in both healthy subjects and specific patient populations (schizophrenia patients, patients with lesions in the cerebellum or in parietal cortex, Parkinson patients, etc.). Apart from fMRI, we recently started to also perform magnetoencephalography (MEG) in collaboration with Prof. Dr. Christoph Braun's laboratory at the Tübingen MEG centre. Our empirical research is additionally inspired and validated by computational modeling (in collaboration with Prof. Dr. Martin Giese, HIH) and by philosophical analysis (in collaboration with Dr. Hong Yu Wong, CIN).

Partner und Kooperationen

Die neuronalen Grundlagen sensorischer Vorhersagen für Wahrnehmung und Verhalten
(Bernstein Center Tübingen, National Network of Computational Neuroscience, BMBF, Project C4, PD Dr. A. Lindner & Prof. Dr. Martin Giese). Weitere Mitarbeiter: Artur Pilacinski, Manuel Roth

Die Rolle des parietalen Kortex bei der Wahrnehmung der eigenen Bewegungen
(with Dr. M. Synofzik & Dr. M. Himmelbach). Weitere Mitarbeiter: Karla Lauer, Manuel Roth.

Self-Action Perception in Patients with Neurodegenerative Disease
(mit Dr. M. Synofzik und Dr. T. Wächter, HIH).

fMRI and MEG Correlates of Sensory Decision Making
(mit Dr. Y. Li Hegner und Prof. Dr. C. Braun, MEG-Zentrum Tübingen).

The Role of Parietal Cortex in Mediating Perceptual Grouping and Object correspondence
(mit Dr. E. Hein, Evolutionary Cognition Lab, Department of Psychology Tübingen und Prof. Dr. C. Braun, MEG-Zentrum Tübingen). Mitarbeiterin: Katrina Quinn.

Sensory Attenuation and Agency Attribution in Voluntary versus Involuntary Actions
(mit Dr. H. Wong, CIN Tübingen). Mitarbeiter: Manuel Roth.

Cognitive Aging
(mit Prof. P. Thier, HIH). Mitarbeiter: Thekla Zekos.

NoD Lab Tools: The NERT4SPM Toolbox for Plotting Average Event Related MRI-Signal Time-Courses in SPM2 & SPM5. Please Download Using a Subversion Client:


Li Hegner Y, Lindner A*, Braun C* (2016) A somatosensory-to-motor cascade of cortical areas engaged in perceptual decision making during tactile pattern discrimination. Human Brain Mapping. doi: 10.1002/hbm.23446. [Epub ahead of print]. *authors contributed equally.

Roth MJ, Lindner A, Thier P (2016) Visual circuits. In: Essentials of Cerebellum and Cerebellar Disorders. Gruol DL, Koibuchi N, Manto M, Molinari M, Schmahmann JD, Shen Y (eds), Berlin-Heidelberg, pp. 89-100.



Li Hegner Y, Lindner A*, Braun C* (2015) Cortical correlates of perceptual decision making during tactile spatial pattern discrimination. Human Brain Mapping 36(9):3339-3350. *authors contributed equally 

Synofzik M, Vosgerau G, Lindner A (2015) The experience of free will and the experience of agency: an error-prone, reconstructive process. In: Free Will and the Brain. Neuroscientific, Philosophical, and Legal Perspectives. Glannon W (ed), Cambridge University Press, pp 66-79



Kutscheidt K, Hein E, Roth MJ, Lindner A (2014) fMRI-evidence for a top-down grouping mechanism establishing object correspondence in the Ternus-Pikler display. Cognitive Processing 15 (Suppl. 1), S48-S49.



Roth MJ, Synofzik M, Lindner A (2013) The cerebellum optimizes perceptual predictions about external sensory events. Current Biology 23(10):930-935

Wilke C Synofzik M Lindner A (2013) Sensorimotor Recalibration Depends on Attribution of Sensory Prediction Errors to Internal Causes. PLoS One 8, 1: e54925



Wilke C, Synofzik M, Lindner A (2012) The valence of action outcomes modulates the perception of one's actions. Consciousness and Cognition 21:18-29



Dieckgraeff AG, Lindner A*, Rosenstiel W, Bogdan M* (2011) Detection of Motor Planning and Suppression with the help of lectroencephalography. Conference Proceedings - IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society 2011: 3905-3908



Brendel B, Hertrich I, Erb M, Lindner A, Riecker A, Grodd W, Ackermann H. The contribution of mesiofrontal cortex to the preparation and execution of repetitive syllable productions: an fMRI study. Neuroimage 2010;50(3):1219-1230.

Iyer A, Lindner A, Kagan I, Andersen RA. Motor Preparatory Activity in Posterior Parietal Cortex is Modulated by Subjective Absolute Value. PLoS Biology 2010; in press.

Kagan I, Iyer A, Lindner A, Andersen RA. Contralaterality of Space Representation is Greater in Monkeys than in Humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 2010;107(17):7933-7938.

Lindner A, Iyer A, Kagan I, Andersen RA. Human Posterior Parietal Cortex Plans Where to Reach and What to Avoid. Journal of Neuroscience 2010; in press.

Synofzik M, Thier P, Leube DT, Schlotterbeck P, Lindner A. Misattributions of agency in schizophrenia are based on imprecise predictions about the sensory consequences of one’s actions. Brain 2010;133(1):262-271.



Synofzik M, Vosgerau G, Lindner A (2009) Me or not me - An optimal integration of agency cues? Conscious and Cognition 2009;18(4):1065-1068



Synofzik M, Lindner A, Thier P. The cerebellum updates predictions about the visual consequences of one's behavior. Curr Biol 2008;18(11):814-818



Lindner A, Haarmeier T, Erb M, Grodd W, Thier P. Cerebro-cerebellar circuits for the perceptual cancellation of eye-movement-induced retinal image motion. J Cogn Neurosci 2006;18(11): 1899-1912

Lindner A, Haarmeier T, Thier P. Die inferentielle Natur der Wahrnehmung: Die Bedeutung des Reafferenzprinzips für das Bewegungssehen. Neuroforum 2006;1:160-165

Lindner A, Ilg UJ. Suppression of optokinesis during smooth pursuit eye movements revisited: The role of extra-retinal information. Vision Res 2006;46:761-767

Synofzik M, Thier P, Lindner A. Internalizing agency of self-action: The perception of one's own hand movements depends on an adaptable prediction about the sensory action outcome. Journal of Neurophysiology 2006;96:1592-1601



Lindner A, Thier P, Haarmeier T, Kircher T, Leube D. Disorders of agency in schizophrenia correlate with an inability to compensate for the sensory consequences of actions. Current Biol; 2005;15:1119-1124



Lindner A, Ilg UJ. Cancellation of gaze stabilizing mechanisms during human smooth pursuit: indications for the involvement of an extra-retinal reference signal. In: Ilg UJ, Bülthoff H, Mallot H (eds). Dynamic Perception. AKA Akad. Verlag, Berlin, 2004;107-112



Thier P, Haarmeier T, Chakraborty S, Lindner A, Tikhonov A. Cortical substrates of visuospatial awareness outside the classical dorsal stream of visual processing. In: Cognitive and Neural Bases of Spatial Neglect. Karnath, H.-O. et al. (Eds.) Oxford University Press, 2002, 71-84



Haarmeier T, Bunjes F, Lindner A, Berret E, Thier P. Optimizing visual motion perception during eye movements. Neuron 2001;32:527-535

Lindner A, Schwarz, U Ilg UJ (2001) Cancellation of self-induced retinal image motion during smooth pursuit eye movements. Vision Research 41, 1685–1694.

Thier P, Haarmeier T, Chakraborty S, Lindner A, Tikhonov A. Cortical substrates of perceptual stability during eye movements. NeuroImage 2001;14:S33-S39



Lindner A, Ilg UJ. Initiation of smooth-pursuit eye movements to first-order and second-order motion stimuli. Exp Brain Res 2000;133:450-456

Prof. Dr. R.A. Andersen (Division of Biology, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, USA) & Prof. Dr. W. Schultz (University of Cambridge, UK): fMRI correlates of stimulus-outcome and response-outcome associations in non-human primates.

Dr. Marc Buehner (School of Psychology, Cardiff University, UK): Casual and Intentional Binding in Schizophrenia.

Prof. Dr. C.F. Camerer (Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences ,California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, USA), Prof. Dr. E. Reutskaya (IESE Business School, University of Navarra, Barcelona, Spain) & Prof. Dr. R.C. Nagel (Department of Economics, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain): The neural bases of human decision making under choice overload.

Dr. A. Gail (Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience & German Primate Center, Göttingen, Germany): Decoding distributed representations of context-dependant action plans - multivariate analyses of single cell spikes and LFP data, recorded simultaneously in parietal and premotor cortex.

Prof. Dr. H. Plassmann (INSEAD, Fontainebleau, France): The psychological basis of spending money during economic decision-making.

PD Dr. Axel Lindner a.lindner(at) Anschrift

Zentrum für Neurologie
Hertie-Institut für klinische Hirnforschung
Abteilung Kognitive Neurologie

Hoppe-Seyler-Straße 3
72076 Tübingen

Tel.: +49 (0)7071 29-80469
Fax: +49 (0)7071 29-5326