Read Montague portrait

Read Montague, a computational neuroscientist at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, led a research team that discovered brain imaging can determine whether someone is acting in a state of knowledge about a crime.

Using social exchange games to probe the boundaries of mental health

Studying people as they play simple games can lead to complex insights, according to P. Read Montague, the director of the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory and the Computational Psychiatry Unit at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, and a Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow of the University College London.

Montague discussed “Using (Barely) Social Exchange Games to Probe the Boundaries of Healthy Mental Function,” at the Current Challenges in Computing Conference this week in Napa, California.

Montague’s research team uses neuroimaging and computational psychiatry to learn about human ability to understand and respond to others. The researchers have designed and utilized simple social exchange games common to economics to study human behavior.

“Social exchange games are beginning to show some practical utility in difficult-to-understand personality disorders, such as borderline personality disorder,” said Montague, who is the Virginia Tech Carilion Vernon Mountcastle Research Professor, and a professor of physics in the Virginia Tech College of Science.

During his presentation, Montague will survey his research group’s efforts in the U.S. and the United Kingdom, which suggest that such simple games and their neural correlates may one day provide a basis for understanding important pieces of human social cognition.

The Current Challenges in Computing Conference this year features leading scientific speakers who are advancing the state of the art of the world’s computing capability in social science.

Previous conferences since 2010 have focused on climate modeling, energy resource modeling, network science, biomedical research, decision science, and advanced manufacturing.