Neuroeconomics is a rapidly growing new research discipline aimed at describing the neural substrate of decision-making using incentivized decisions introduced in experimental economics. The novel combination of economic decision theory and neuroscience has the potential to better examine the interactions of social, psychological and neural factors with regard to motivational forces that may underlie psychiatric problems. Game theory will provide psychiatry with computationally principled measures of cognitive dysfunction. Given the relatively high heritability of these measures, they may contribute to improving phenotypic definitions of psychiatric conditions. The game-theoretical concepts of optimal behavior will allow description of psychopathology as deviation from optimal functioning. Neuroeconomists have successfully used normative or near-normative models to interpret the function of neurotransmitters; these models have the potential to significantly improve neurotransmitter theories of psychiatric disorders. This paper will review recent evidence from neuroeconomics and psychiatry in support of applying economic concepts such as risk/uncertainty preference, time preference and social preference to psychiatric research to improve diagnostic classification, prevention and therapy.
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