From a single decision to a multi-step algorithm

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2012 Dec;22(6):937-45. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2012.05.006. Epub 2012 Jun 14.


Humans can perform sequential and recursive computations, as when calculating 23×74. However, this comes at a cost: flexible computations are slow and effortful. We argue that this competence involves serial chains of successive decisions, each based on the accumulation of evidence up to a threshold and forwarding the result to the subsequent step. Such serial 'programs' require a specific neurobiological architecture, approximating the operation of a slow serial Turing machine. We review recent progress in understanding how the brain implements such multi-step decisions and briefly examine how they might be realized in models of primate cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Animals
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Nerve Net*
  • Neural Networks, Computer*
  • Primates