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Oklahoma State University

$4 Million NSF Grant to Help OSU Professor Study Decision-Making

Wed, October 07, 2015
$4 Million NSF Grant to Help OSU Professor Study Decision-Making

The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded Oklahoma State University Regents Professor and Lawrence L. Boger Professor of International Studies Dr. Charles I. Abramson and a consortium of U.S. and international faculty and students a $4 million grant to conduct ambitious research on reward-based decision making.

In collaboration with the University of Puerto Rico as the lead institution, the four-year grant “Neural Mechanisms of Reward and Decision” is funded through the Partnership for International Research and Education (PIRE) mechanism. The grant will support a wide variety of projects that investigate reward and decision across a broad range of phylogenic and mechanistic levels.

“The idea is to try to get a handle on the molecular mechanisms of behavior,” Abramson said.

Working with his colleague Dr. Tugrul Giray from the University of Puerto Rico, Abramson, a comparative psychologist, will be investigating neural mechanisms of learning in honey bee subspecies.  Abramson has long used the honey bee as a model for some human behaviors, including alcoholism.

“Honey bees have a social structure and a language,” Abramson said.  “They have caste-dependent changes in learning so younger bees do not do the same thing as when they get older; they change.”

Through the research provided by the grant, the consortium hopes to increase the understanding of decision-making, which could lead to more effective, adaptive strategies for solving problems.

In addition to cultivating interdisciplinary research, the grant fosters international cooperation by supporting projects in Canada, Chile, Egypt, Italy, and Turkey.  The grant also responds to the national need to increase diversity in science.