A Neuroeconomics Approach to Biomarker Discovery in Depression





Project Summary

Our summer research project aims to find correlation between depression and loss aversion. Explained as ‘Losses loom larger than gains’ by Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, loss aversion exists in everyone’s decision process yet it varies in magnitude between individuals. Therefore, we would like to know if the magnitude of loss aversion correlates with the degrees of depression – a hypothesis if proved can help with the development of a more robust depression-detecting procedure compared to the current one which relies heavily on self-report.

After reviewing the primary findings we attained from the eye-tracking data set last year, we added gain-only trials for the new data set while explored the new mouse tracking paradigm in hope to find a more elegant measurement for loss aversion in drift diffusion model than eye tracking. In the process, I experienced the full cycle of a research project – hypothesis registration, literature review, trial preparation, participant recruitment, data collection and data analysis. Interested in going into the user research field after graduation, the opportunity to go through the whole process of conducting behavioral research as an undergraduate is extremely valuable. Having been on this project for two years, I now have more say during team meetings where I proposed the mouse tracking methodology and was warmly encouraged to be in charge of its development with my team’s full support. Once we carefully designed and prepared the study at the lab, I was again in charge of the collaboration with Wharton Behavioral Lab where we recruited students for participation and collected behavioral data. Although various administrative details can be overwhelming at times, I learnt so much in these interactions that I would never have otherwise in classrooms or even in lab settings.