• René San Martín

  • Graduate Student
  • Psychology and Neuroscience
  • B355 Levine Science Research Center (LSRC)
  • Phone: (919) 668-3635
  • Specialties

    • Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Research Summary

    Scott A. Huettel and Marty G. Woldorff
  • Research Description

    René is a PhD candidate in the Psychology and Neuroscience Department at Duke University. He is interested in the neural substrate of individual differences in economic and social decision making, and particularly in how humans use information about past outcomes to optimize choice behavior. His research examines these processes using EEG recordings while people participate in economic experiments. René joined the Huettel Lab after earning a BA in Psychology from Universidad de Valparaíso and a MA in Cognitive Studies from Universidad de Chile. René is also a Fulbright grant recipient and a faculty member at Universidad Diego Portales, Chile, where he has established the first center for the study of neuroeconomics in Latin America.
  • Current Projects

    Neurocognitive mechanisms underlying individual differences in gain maximization and loss minimization, Electrophysiological brain responses predicting charitable decisions, Neural substrates of economic decision-making under time pressure
  • Areas of Interest

    Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience
    Economic decision-making
  • Education

      • MS,
      • Cognitive Science,
      • Universidad de Chile,
      • 2009
      • BA,
      • Psychology,
      • Universidad de Valparaíso,
      • 2006
  • Awards, Honors and Distinctions

      • NIMH Summer Institute in Cognitive Neuroscience Fellow,
      • NIMH Summer Institute in Cognitive Neuroscience, UC Santa Barbara – UC Davis,
      • 2011
      • Fulbright U.S.-Chile Scholarship,
      • Fulbright - CONICYT (National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research - Chile),
      • December, 2009
  • Selected Publications

      • San Martín, R., Appelbaum, L.G., Pearson, J.M., Huettel, S.A, Woldorff, M.G..
      • 2013.
      • Rapid brain responses independently predict gain-maximization and loss-minimization during economic decision-making.
      • The Journal of Neuroscience
      • 33:
      • 7011-7019
      • .
      Publication Description

      Success in many decision-making scenarios depends on the ability to maximize gains and minimize losses. Even if an agent knows which cues lead to gains and which lead to losses, that agent could still make choices yielding suboptimal rewards. Here, by analyzing eventrelated potentials (ERPs) recorded in humans during a probabilistic gambling task, we show that individuals’ behavioral tendencies to maximize gains and to minimize losses are associated with their ERP responses to the receipt of those gains and losses, respectively. We focused our analyses on ERP signals that predict behavioral adjustment: the frontocentral feedback-related negativity (FRN) and two P300 (P3) subcomponents, the frontocentral P3a and the parietal P3b. We found that, across participants, gain maximization was predicted by differences in amplitude of the P3b for suboptimal versus optimal gains (i.e., P3b amplitude difference between the least good and the best gains). Conversely, loss minimization was predicted by differences in the P3b amplitude to suboptimal versus optimal losses (i.e., difference between the worst and the least bad losses). Finally, we observed that the P3a and P3b, but not the FRN, predicted behavioral adjustment on subsequent trials, suggesting a specific adaptive mechanism by which prior experience may alter ensuing behavior. These findings indicate that individual differences in gain maximization and loss minimization are linked to individual differences in rapid neural responses to monetary outcomes.

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René San Martín
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