Ben Hayden, PhD

Professor, Department of Neuroscience


Ben Hayden is a Professor in the Department of Neuroscience and the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research. His lab studies the role of the brain activity in making reward-based decisions, and in changing strategies in demanding circumstances. They do this with recordings of activity of populations of neurons in subjects making and adjusting simple decisions. They then compare these patterns with those obtained from subjects exposed to cocaine for long periods of times. This research contributes to a basic understanding of the brain circuitry of drug addiction.


Research Summary/Interests

I am interested in understanding the neural mechanisms by which our brains make and control our choices. I have a particular interest in understanding self-control, learning, and decision-making. My research is closely inspired by foraging theory and by behavioral ecology more generally. As such a major focus of the lab’s methods development comes in making our task environments ever more naturalistic. The lab uses single unit recordings in rhesus macaques performing computerized and freely moving tasks and records in reward regions. We are especially interested in the cingulate cortex (dorsal anterior and posterior, dACC and PCC), orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), and the striatum. At UMN, my lab and I have begun working to understand expand our understanding of these regions and processes by incorporating measures of hemodynamic response.


Wu S, Blanchard T, Meschke E, Aslin RN, Hayden BY, Kidd C. Macaques preferentially attend to intermediately surprising information. Biol Lett. 2022 Jul;18(7):20220144. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2022.0144. E

Wang MZ, Hayden BY, Heilbronner SR. A structural and functional subdivision in central orbitofrontal cortex. Nat Commun. 2022 Jun 24;13(1):3623. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-31273-9.

Woo JH, Azab H, Jahn A, Hayden BY, Brown JW. The PRO model accounts for the anterior cingulate cortex role in risky decision-making and monitoring. Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci. 2022 Mar 24. doi: 10.3758/s13415-022-00992-3.

Maisson DJ, Cash-Padgett TV, Wang MZ, Hayden BY, Heilbronner SR, Zimmermann J. Choice-relevant information transformation along a ventrodorsal axis in the medial prefrontal cortex. Nat Commun. 2021 Aug 10;12(1):4830. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-25219-w.

Yoo SBM, Tu JC, Hayden BY. Multicentric tracking of multiple agents by anterior cingulate cortex during pursuit and evasion. Nat Commun. 2021 Mar 31;12(1):1985. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-22195-z. 

Yoo, SBM & Hayden, BY 2020, 'The Transition from Evaluation to Selection Involves Neural Subspace Reorganization in Core Reward Regions', Neuron, vol. 105, no. 4, pp. 712-724.e4.

Yoo, SBM, Tu, JC, Piantadosi, ST & Hayden, BY 2020, 'The neural basis of predictive pursuit', Nature neuroscience, vol. 23, no. 2, pp. 252-259.

Eisenreich, BR, Hayden, BY & Zimmermann, J 2019, 'Macaques are risk-averse in a freely moving foraging task', Scientific reports, vol. 9, no. 1, 15091.

Smith, EH, Horga, G, Yates, MJ, Mikell, CB, Banks, GP, Pathak, YJ, Schevon, CA, McKhann, GM, Hayden, BY, Botvinick, MM & Sheth, SA 2019, 'Widespread temporal coding of cognitive control in the human prefrontal cortex', Nature neuroscience, vol. 22, no. 11, pp. 1883-1891.

Farashahi, S, Donahue, CH, Hayden, BY, Lee, D & Soltani, A 2019, 'Flexible combination of reward information across primates', Nature Human Behaviour, vol. 3, no. 11, pp. 1215-1224.

Wang, MZ & Hayden, BY 2019, 'Monkeys are curious about counterfactual outcomes' Cognition, vol. 189, pp. 1-10.

Wang, MZ & Hayden, BY 2019, 'Beyond "incentive hope": Information sampling and learning under reward uncertainty' Behavioral and Brain Sciences, vol. 42, e56.

Hayden, BY 2018, 'Economic choice: the foraging perspective' Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, vol. 24, pp. 1-6.

Yoo, SBM & Hayden, BY 2018, 'Economic Choice as an Untangling of Options into Actions' Neuron, vol. 99, no. 3, pp. 434-447.

Cash-Padgett, T, Azab, H, Yoo, SBM & Hayden, BY 2018, 'Opposing pupil responses to offered and anticipated reward values' Animal Cognition, vol. 21, no. 5, pp. 671-684.