Decision Making and Emotion Group

How do we make decisions? How do we feel about the outcomes?

Feelings of happiness and sadness are central to conscious experience, but we still know little about what happens in the brain when we have these feelings or how these feelings relate to the events in our lives. We have developed a computational and neural model of happiness that links rewards and expectations to subjective feelings and to dopamine. Happiness depends not on how well individuals are doing, but whether they are doing better than expected. We have also introduced a new computational model for the role of dopamine in decision making. Boosting dopamine increases a Pavlovian influence of potential rewards. By studying people of all ages using a smartphone app, we find a selective decline in this Pavlovian influence of potential rewards, which could be accounted for by the gradual age-related decline in dopamine. The Decision Making and Emotion Group combines computational modeling with neuroimaging, pharmacology, and large-scale smartphone-based data collection to study the relationship between decision making and emotion across the lifespan and in people with mood disorders including major depression and bipolar disorder.

© Decision Making and Emotion Group

Subject State Dynamics and Decision Making


  • Computational modeling of subjective states and behavior
  • Neuroimaging and pharmacology
  • Large-scale smartphone-based data collection
  • Major depression and bipolar disorder

Detailed information on these foci can be found at


Robb Rutledge
© M. Dian

The Decision Making and Emotion Group (DMEG)

Dr. Robb Rutledge
Max Planck UCL Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research
Russell Square House
10–12 Russell Square
London, WC1B 5EH
United Kingdom

robb [dot] rutledge [at] ucl [dot] ac [dot] uk (Contact)



Robb Rutledge (Group leader)

Bastien Blain
Liam Mason (Postdocs)

Rachel Bedder
(Predoc, COMP2PSYCH)

Akshay Nair (Leonard Wolfson Clinical Training Fellow)


Russell Square House, London

Russel Square London | MP UCL Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Res
© W. Hachar

Key References

de Berker, A. O., Rutledge, R. B., Mathys, C., Marshall, L., Cross, G. F., Dolan, R. J., & Bestmann, S. (2016). Computations of uncertainty mediate acute stress responses in humans. Nature Communications, 7:10996. doi: 10.1038/ncomms10996

Eldar, E., Rutledge, R. B., Dolan, R. J., & Niv, Y. (2016). Mood as a representation of momentum. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 20, 14–24. doi: 10.1016/j.tics. 2015.07.010

Rutledge, R. B., de Berker, A. O., Espenhahn, S., Dayan, P., & Dolan, R. J. (2016). The social contingency of momentary subjective well-being. Nature Communications, 7:11825. doi: 10.1038/ncomms11825

Rutledge, R. B., Smittenaar, P., Zeidman, P., Brown, H. R., Adams, R. A., Lindenberger, U., Dayan, P., & Dolan, R. J. (2016). Risk taking for potential rewards decreases across the lifespan. Current Biology, 26, 1634–1639. doi: 10.1016/ j.cub.2016.05.017

Rutledge, R. B., Skandali, N., Dayan, P., & Dolan, R. J. (2015). Dopaminergic modulation of decision making and subjective well-being. Journal of Neuroscience, 35, 9811–9822. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI. 0702-15.2015

Rutledge, R. B., Skandali, N., Dayan, P., & Dolan, R. J. (2014). A neural and computational model of momentary subjective well-being. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 111, 12252–12257.