Finance - Research Publications
Now showing items 1-12 of 132
Neural Mechanisms Behind Identification of Leptokurtic Noise and Adaptive Behavioral Response
(OXFORD UNIV PRESS INC, 2016-04-01)
Large-scale human interaction through, for example, financial markets causes ceaseless random changes in outcome variability, producing frequent and salient outliers that render the outcome distribution more peaked than the Gaussian distribution, and with longer tails. Here, we study how humans cope with this evolutionary novel leptokurtic noise, focusing on the neurobiological mechanisms that allow the brain, 1) to recognize the outliers as noise and 2) to regulate the control necessary for adaptive response. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging, while participants tracked a target whose movements were affected by leptokurtic noise. After initial overreaction and insufficient subsequent correction, participants improved performance significantly. Yet, persistently long reaction times pointed to continued need for vigilance and control. We ran a contrasting treatment where outliers reflected permanent moves of the target, as in traditional mean-shift paradigms. Importantly, outliers were equally frequent and salient. There, control was superior and reaction time was faster. We present a novel reinforcement learning model that fits observed choices better than the Bayes-optimal model. Only anterior insula discriminated between the 2 types of outliers. In both treatments, outliers initially activated an extensive bottom-up attention and belief network, followed by sustained engagement of the fronto-parietal control network.
Longitudinal assessment of reflexive and volitional saccades in Niemann-Pick Type C disease during treatment with miglustat
BACKGROUND: Niemann-Pick Type C disease (NPC), is an autosomal recessive neurovisceral disorder of lipid metabolism. One characteristic feature of NPC is a vertical supranuclear gaze palsy particularly affecting saccades. However, horizontal saccades are also impaired and as a consequence a parameter related to horizontal peak saccadic velocity was used as an outcome measure in the clinical trial of miglustat, the first drug approved in several jurisdictions for the treatment of NPC. As NPC-related neuropathology is widespread in the brain we examined a wider range of horizontal saccade parameters and to determine whether these showed treatment-related improvement and, if so, if this was maintained over time. METHODS: Nine adult NPC patients participated in the study; 8 were treated with miglustat for periods between 33 and 61 months. Data were available for 2 patients before their treatment commenced and 1 patient was untreated. Tasks included reflexive saccades, antisaccades and self-paced saccades, with eye movements recorded by an infrared reflectance eye tracker. Parameters analysed were reflexive saccade gain and latency, asymptotic peak saccadic velocity, HSEM-α (the slope of the peak duration-amplitude regression line), antisaccade error percentage, self-paced saccade count and time between refixations on the self-paced task. Data were analysed by plotting the change from baseline as a proportion of the baseline value at each test time and, where multiple data values were available at each session, by linear mixed effects (LME) analysis. RESULTS: Examination of change plots suggested some modest sustained improvement in gain, no consistent changes in asymptotic peak velocity or HSEM-α, deterioration in the already poor antisaccade error rate and sustained improvement in self-paced saccade rate. LME analysis showed statistically significant improvement in gain and the interval between self-paced saccades, with differences over time between treated and untreated patients. CONCLUSIONS: Both qualitative examination of change scores and statistical evaluation with LME analysis support the idea that some saccadic parameters are robust indicators of efficacy, and that the variability observed across measures may indicate locally different effects of neurodegeneration and of drug actions.
Explicit neural signals reflecting reward uncertainty
(ROYAL SOC, 2008-12-12)
The acknowledged importance of uncertainty in economic decision making has stimulated the search for neural signals that could influence learning and inform decision mechanisms. Current views distinguish two forms of uncertainty, namely risk and ambiguity, depending on whether the probability distributions of outcomes are known or unknown. Behavioural neurophysiological studies on dopamine neurons revealed a risk signal, which covaried with the standard deviation or variance of the magnitude of juice rewards and occurred separately from reward value coding. Human imaging studies identified similarly distinct risk signals for monetary rewards in the striatum and orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), thus fulfilling a requirement for the mean variance approach of economic decision theory. The orbitofrontal risk signal covaried with individual risk attitudes, possibly explaining individual differences in risk perception and risky decision making. Ambiguous gambles with incomplete probabilistic information induced stronger brain signals than risky gambles in OFC and amygdala, suggesting that the brain's reward system signals the partial lack of information. The brain can use the uncertainty signals to assess the uncertainty of rewards, influence learning, modulate the value of uncertain rewards and make appropriate behavioural choices between only partly known options.
Evidence for Model-based Computations in the Human Amygdala during Pavlovian Conditioning
(PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2013-02-01)
Contemporary computational accounts of instrumental conditioning have emphasized a role for a model-based system in which values are computed with reference to a rich model of the structure of the world, and a model-free system in which values are updated without encoding such structure. Much less studied is the possibility of a similar distinction operating at the level of Pavlovian conditioning. In the present study, we scanned human participants while they participated in a Pavlovian conditioning task with a simple structure while measuring activity in the human amygdala using a high-resolution fMRI protocol. After fitting a model-based algorithm and a variety of model-free algorithms to the fMRI data, we found evidence for the superiority of a model-based algorithm in accounting for activity in the amygdala compared to the model-free counterparts. These findings support an important role for model-based algorithms in describing the processes underpinning Pavlovian conditioning, as well as providing evidence of a role for the human amygdala in model-based inference.
Do not bet on the unknown versus try to find out more: estimation uncertainty and "unexpected uncertainty" both modulate exploration
(FRONTIERS RESEARCH FOUNDATION, 2012-01-01)
Little is known about how humans solve the exploitation/exploration trade-off. In particular, the evidence for uncertainty-driven exploration is mixed. The current study proposes a novel hypothesis of exploration that helps reconcile prior findings that may seem contradictory at first. According to this hypothesis, uncertainty-driven exploration involves a dilemma between two motives: (i) to speed up learning about the unknown, which may beget novel reward opportunities; (ii) to avoid the unknown because it is potentially dangerous. We provide evidence for our hypothesis using both behavioral and simulated data, and briefly point to recent evidence that the brain differentiates between these two motives.
The chronometry of risk processing in the human cortex
(FRONTIERS MEDIA SA, 2013-01-01)
The neuroscience of human decision-making has focused on localizing brain activity correlating with decision variables and choice, most commonly using functional MRI (fMRI). Poor temporal resolution means these studies are agnostic in relation to how decisions unfold in time. Consequently, here we address the temporal evolution of neural activity related to encoding of risk using magnetoencephalography (MEG), and show modulations of electromagnetic power in posterior parietal and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (DMPFC) which scale with both variance and skewness in a lottery, detectable within 500 ms following stimulus presentation. Electromagnetic responses in somatosensory cortex following this risk encoding predict subsequent choices. Furthermore, within anterior insula we observed early and late effects of subject-specific risk preferences, suggestive of a role in both risk assessment and risk anticipation during choice. The observation that cortical activity tracks specific and independent components of risk from early time-points in a decision-making task supports the hypothesis that specialized brain circuitry underpins risk perception.
Risk, Unexpected Uncertainty, and Estimation Uncertainty: Bayesian Learning in Unstable Settings
(PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2011-01-01)
Recently, evidence has emerged that humans approach learning using Bayesian updating rather than (model-free) reinforcement algorithms in a six-arm restless bandit problem. Here, we investigate what this implies for human appreciation of uncertainty. In our task, a Bayesian learner distinguishes three equally salient levels of uncertainty. First, the Bayesian perceives irreducible uncertainty or risk: even knowing the payoff probabilities of a given arm, the outcome remains uncertain. Second, there is (parameter) estimation uncertainty or ambiguity: payoff probabilities are unknown and need to be estimated. Third, the outcome probabilities of the arms change: the sudden jumps are referred to as unexpected uncertainty. We document how the three levels of uncertainty evolved during the course of our experiment and how it affected the learning rate. We then zoom in on estimation uncertainty, which has been suggested to be a driving force in exploration, in spite of evidence of widespread aversion to ambiguity. Our data corroborate the latter. We discuss neural evidence that foreshadowed the ability of humans to distinguish between the three levels of uncertainty. Finally, we investigate the boundaries of human capacity to implement Bayesian learning. We repeat the experiment with different instructions, reflecting varying levels of structural uncertainty. Under this fourth notion of uncertainty, choices were no better explained by Bayesian updating than by (model-free) reinforcement learning. Exit questionnaires revealed that participants remained unaware of the presence of unexpected uncertainty and failed to acquire the right model with which to implement Bayesian updating.
The Affective Impact of Financial Skewness on Neural Activity and Choice
(PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2011-02-15)
Few finance theories consider the influence of "skewness" (or large and asymmetric but unlikely outcomes) on financial choice. We investigated the impact of skewed gambles on subjects' neural activity, self-reported affective responses, and subsequent preferences using functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI). Neurally, skewed gambles elicited more anterior insula activation than symmetric gambles equated for expected value and variance, and positively skewed gambles also specifically elicited more nucleus accumbens (NAcc) activation than negatively skewed gambles. Affectively, positively skewed gambles elicited more positive arousal and negatively skewed gambles elicited more negative arousal than symmetric gambles equated for expected value and variance. Subjects also preferred positively skewed gambles more, but negatively skewed gambles less than symmetric gambles of equal expected value. Individual differences in both NAcc activity and positive arousal predicted preferences for positively skewed gambles. These findings support an anticipatory affect account in which statistical properties of gambles--including skewness--can influence neural activity, affective responses, and ultimately, choice.
Activity in Inferior Parietal and Medial Prefrontal Cortex Signals the Accumulation of Evidence in a Probability Learning Task
(PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2013-01-01)
In an uncertain environment, probabilities are key to predicting future events and making adaptive choices. However, little is known about how humans learn such probabilities and where and how they are encoded in the brain, especially when they concern more than two outcomes. During functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), young adults learned the probabilities of uncertain stimuli through repetitive sampling. Stimuli represented payoffs and participants had to predict their occurrence to maximize their earnings. Choices indicated loss and risk aversion but unbiased estimation of probabilities. BOLD response in medial prefrontal cortex and angular gyri increased linearly with the probability of the currently observed stimulus, untainted by its value. Connectivity analyses during rest and task revealed that these regions belonged to the default mode network. The activation of past outcomes in memory is evoked as a possible mechanism to explain the engagement of the default mode network in probability learning. A BOLD response relating to value was detected only at decision time, mainly in striatum. It is concluded that activity in inferior parietal and medial prefrontal cortex reflects the amount of evidence accumulated in favor of competing and uncertain outcomes.
In the Mind of the Market: Theory of Mind Biases Value Computation during Financial Bubbles
(CELL PRESS, 2013-09-18)
The ability to infer intentions of other agents, called theory of mind (ToM), confers strong advantages for individuals in social situations. Here, we show that ToM can also be maladaptive when people interact with complex modern institutions like financial markets. We tested participants who were investing in an experimental bubble market, a situation in which the price of an asset is much higher than its underlying fundamental value. We describe a mechanism by which social signals computed in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex affect value computations in ventromedial prefrontal cortex, thereby increasing an individual's propensity to 'ride' financial bubbles and lose money. These regions compute a financial metric that signals variations in order flow intensity, prompting inference about other traders' intentions. Our results suggest that incorporating inferences about the intentions of others when making value judgments in a complex financial market could lead to the formation of market bubbles.
Do foreign investors insulate firms from local shocks? Evidence from the response of investable firms to monetary policy
Extant research shows that stock returns of investable firms are highly sensitive to foreign market and global information shocks, suggesting that having foreign investors might insulate investable firms from shocks to local fundamentals. Examining 24 emerging markets, we find that both investable and non-investable firms are sensitive to local monetary policy shocks. This allays the concern that emerging-market opening reduces the efficacy of local monetary policy. We also find that in 11 countries (46% of our country-sample), investable firms are more sensitive to local shocks than non-investable firms. Differences in leverage, stock liquidity, size, domestic product-market exposure, or industry cyclicality do not drive this finding.
Tax-driven Off-Market Buybacks (TOMBs): Time to Lay Them to Rest
(The Tax Institute, 2020-07-01)
Tax-driven Off-Market Buybacks (TOMBs) have been used by large Australian companies to distribute cash and stream franking (tax) credits to low-tax-rate shareholders. While small in number, the amounts are significant, involving an estimated cost to government tax revenue in 2018 of around $2 billion. This paper reviews the current and historical evolution of the regulation and taxation of TOMBs and argues that there are fundamental problems with corporate use of TOMBs. These include inequitable treatment of shareholders, government tax revenue costs, inconsistency with good principles of taxation, arbitrary tax determinations and practices which are difficult to justify. Since corporates can distribute cash to shareholders using other, quite standard, capital management techniques, we argue that a social cost-benefit analysis leads to the conclusion that TOMBs should be prohibited.