We present a dynamical systems analysis of a decision-making mechanism inspired by collective choice in house-hunting honeybee swarms, revealing the crucial role of cross-inhibitory ‘stop-signalling’ in improving the decision-making capabilities. We show that strength of cross-inhibition is a decision-parameter influencing how decisions depend both on the difference in value and on the mean value of the alternatives; this is in contrast to many previous mechanistic models of decision-making, which are typically sensitive to decision accuracy rather than the value of the option chosen. The strength of cross-inhibition determines when deadlock over similarly valued alternatives is maintained or broken, as a function of the mean value; thus, changes in cross-inhibition strength allow adaptive time-dependent decision-making strategies. Cross-inhibition also tunes the minimum difference between alternatives required for reliable discrimination, in a manner similar to Weber's law of just-noticeable difference. Finally, cross-inhibition tunes the speed-accuracy trade-off realised when differences in the values of the alternatives are sufficiently large to matter. We propose that the model, and the significant role of the values of the alternatives, may describe other decision-making systems, including intracellular regulatory circuits, and simple neural circuits, and may provide guidance in the design of decision-making algorithms for artificial systems, particularly those functioning without centralised control.
Low folate status increases colorectal cancer risk whereas abundant supplementation may paradoxically increase risk. The mechanisms are unknown.
To define molecular pathways in the human colon altered by either dietary folate depletion (followed by repletion), or by supplementation.
10 healthy volunteers consumed a low folate diet for 12 weeks. During the last 4 weeks, folic acid (1 mg/day) was administered. In a second study, 10 other subjects were provided supplemental folic acid for 8 weeks. Rectosigmoid biopsies were obtained at measured intervals in both studies for assessment of primary endpoints: genome-wide gene expression, genomic DNA methylation, promoter methylation (depletion study only) and p53 DNA strand breaks.
Serum and rectosigmoid folate concentrations accurately tracked all changes in folate delivery (p<0.05). Gene array analysis revealed that folate depletion downregulated genes involved in immunity, inflammation, cell cycle and mitochondrial energy pathways; repletion produced reversal in most instances. Similarly, supplementation upregulated multiple inflammatory- and immune-related pathways, and in addition altered several 1-carbon related enzymes (p<0.001). Neither genomic or promoter-specific DNA methylation changed over the course of the depletion/repletion protocol; nor did genomic methylation change due to supplementation. p53 strand breaks increased with depletion after 12 weeks.
Depletion downregulates, whereas repletion or supplementation upregulates, pathways related to inflammation and immune response. Supplementation also altered expression of several pivotal genes involved in 1-carbon metabolism. These changes occurred in the absence of changes in gene methylation. Modest changes in folate delivery create substantial changes in the molecular milieu of the human colon.
Folic acid; folate depletion; folate supplementation; colonic carcinogenesis; one carbon metabolism; inflammation; gene expression profiling; DNA methylation
Substantial evidence suggests that tobacco use has adverse effects on cancer treatment outcomes; however, routine assessment of tobacco use has not been fully incorporated into standard clinical oncology practice. The purpose of this study was to evaluate tobacco use assessment in patients enrolled onto actively accruing cancer clinical trials.
Protocols and forms for 155 actively accruing trials in the National Cancer Institute's (NCI's) Clinical Trials Cooperative Group Program were evaluated for tobacco use assessment at enrollment and follow-up by using a structured coding instrument.
Of the 155 clinical trials reviewed, 45 (29%) assessed any form of tobacco use at enrollment, but only 34 (21.9%) assessed current cigarette use. Only seven trials (4.5%) assessed any form of tobacco use during follow-up. Secondhand smoke exposure was captured in 2.6% of trials at enrollment and 0.6% during follow-up. None of the trials assessed nicotine dependence or interest in quitting at any point during enrollment or treatment. Tobacco status assessment was higher in lung/head and neck trials as well as phase III trials, but there was no difference according to year of starting accrual or cooperative group.
Most actively accruing cooperative group clinical trials do not assess tobacco use, and there is no observable trend in improvement over the past 8 years. Failure to incorporate standardized tobacco assessments into NCI-funded Cooperative Group Clinical Trials will limit the ability to provide evidence-based cessation support and will limit the ability to accurately understand the precise effect of tobacco use on cancer treatment outcomes.
In collective-risk dilemmas, a group needs to collaborate over time to avoid a catastrophic event. This gives rise to a coordination game with many equilibria, including equilibria where no one contributes, and thus no measures against the catastrophe are taken. In this game, the timing of contributions becomes a strategic variable that allows individuals to interact and influence one another. Herein, we use evolutionary game theory to study the impact of strategic timing on equilibrium selection. Depending on the risk of catastrophe, we identify three characteristic regimes. For low risks, defection is the only equilibrium, whereas high risks promote equilibria with sufficient contributions. Intermediate risks pose the biggest challenge for cooperation. In this risk regime, the option to interact over time is critical; if individuals can contribute over several rounds, then the group has a higher chance to succeed, and the expected welfare increases. This positive effect of timing is of particular importance in larger groups, where successful coordination becomes increasingly difficult.
Nutritional supplementation is now a multibillion-dollar industry, and about half of all US adults take supplements. Supplement use is fueled in part by the belief that nutritional supplements can ward off chronic disease, including cancer, although several expert committees and organizations have concluded that there is little to no scientific evidence that supplements reduce cancer risk. To the contrary, there is now evidence that high doses of some supplements increase cancer risk. Despite this evidence, marketing claims by the supplement industry continue to imply anticancer benefits. Insufficient government regulation of the marketing of dietary supplement products may continue to result in unsound advice to consumers. Both the scientific community and government regulators need to provide clear guidance to the public about the use of dietary supplements to lower cancer risk.
Early detection of oral premalignant lesions (OPL) and oral cancers (OC) is critical for improved survival. We evaluated if the addition of autofluorescence visualization (AFV) to conventional white-light examination (WLE) improved the ability to detect OPLs/OCs. Sixty high-risk patients, with suspicious oral lesions or recently diagnosed untreated OPLs/OCs, underwent sequential surveillance with WLE and AFV. Biopsies were obtained from all suspicious areas identified on both examinations (n = 189) and one normal-looking control area per person (n = 60). Sensitivity, specificity, and predictive values were calculated for WLE, AFV, and WLE + AFV. Estimates were calculated separately for lesions classified by histopathologic grades as low-grade lesions, high-grade lesions (HGL), and OCs. Sequential surveillance with WLE + AFV provided a greater sensitivity than WLE in detecting low-grade lesions (75% versus 44%), HGLs (100% versus 71%), and OCs (100% versus 80%). The specificity in detecting OPLs/OCs decreased from 70% with WLE to 38% with WLE + AFV. Thirteen of the 76 additional biopsies (17%) obtained based on AFV findings were HGLs/OCs. Five patients (8%) were diagnosed with a HGL/OC only because of the addition of AFV to WLE. In seven patients, additional HGL/OC foci or wider OC margins were detected on AFV. Additionally, AFV aided in the detection of metachronous HGL/OC in 6 of 26 patients (23%) with a history of previously treated head and neck cancer. Overall, the addition of AFV to WLE improved the ability to detect HGLs/OCs. In spite of the lower specificity, AFV + WLE can be a highly sensitive first-line surveillance tool for detecting OPLs/OCs in high-risk patients.
Selenium is an essential trace element and circulating selenium concentrations have been associated with a wide range of diseases. Candidate gene studies suggest that circulating selenium concentrations may be impacted by genetic variation; however, no study has comprehensively investigated this hypothesis. Therefore, we conducted a two-stage genome-wide association study to identify genetic variants associated with serum selenium concentrations in 1203 European descents from two cohorts: the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening and the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI). We tested association between 2,474,333 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and serum selenium concentrations using linear regression models. In the first stage (PLCO) 41 SNPs clustered in 15 regions had p < 1 × 10−5. None of these 41 SNPs reached the significant threshold (p = 0.05/15 regions = 0.003) in the second stage (WHI). Three SNPs had p < 0.05 in the second stage (rs1395479 and rs1506807 in 4q34.3/AGA-NEIL3; and rs891684 in 17q24.3/SLC39A11) and had p between 2.62 × 10−7 and 4.04 × 10−7 in the combined analysis (PLCO + WHI). Additional studies are needed to replicate these findings. Identification of genetic variation that impacts selenium concentrations may contribute to a better understanding of which genes regulate circulating selenium concentrations.
selenium; serum; selenoprotein; genome-wide association study; AGA; NEIL3; SLC39A11
Prospective analysis was performed of self-reported and biochemically confirmed tobacco use in 50 head and neck cancer patients during treatment. With 93.5% compliance to complete weekly self-report and biochemical confirmatory tests, 29.4% of smokers required biochemical assessment for identification. Accuracy increased by 14.9% with weekly vs. baseline self-reported assessments. Data confirm that head and neck cancer patients misrepresent true tobacco use during treatment.
tobacco; smoking; head/neck; radiotherapy; cotinine
Epidemiological studies evaluating the association between folate intake and risk of pancreatic cancer have produced inconsistent results. The statistical power to examine this association has been limited in previous studies partly because of small sample size and limited range of folate intake in some studies.
We analyzed primary data from 14 prospective cohort studies that included 319 716 men and 542 948 women to assess the association between folate intake and risk of pancreatic cancer. Folate intake was assessed through a validated food-frequency questionnaire at baseline in each study. Study-specific relative risks (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated using Cox proportional hazards models and then pooled using a random effects model. All statistical tests were two-sided.
During 7–20 years of follow-up across studies, 2195 pancreatic cancers were identified. No association was observed between folate intake and risk of pancreatic cancer in men and women (highest vs lowest quintile: dietary folate intake, pooled multivariable RR = 1.06, 95% CI = 0.90 to 1.25, Ptrend = .47; total folate intake [dietary folate and supplemental folic acid], pooled multivariable RR = 0.96, 95% CI = 0.80 to 1.16, Ptrend = .90). No between-study heterogeneity was observed (for dietary folate, Pheterogeneity = .15; for total folate, Pheterogeneity = .22).
Folate intake was not associated with overall risk of pancreatic cancer in this large pooled analysis.
The threat of prostate cancer (PC) and the significant and often negative impact of its treatment underscore the importance of prevention. High-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (HGPIN) has been identified as a potential premalignant lesion marking an increased risk of PC, and substantial evidence suggests that men with HGPIN are in need of PC prevention. In vitro, in vivo, epidemiologic, and clinical trial evidence that selenium supplementation protects against PC motivated the study we report here: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of selenium 200 (mcg/day) as selenomethionine in men with HGPIN. The primary endpoint was progression of HGPIN to PC over a three-year period. This NCI Intergroup trial was coordinated by the Southwest Oncology Group (SWOG). Of 619 enrolled patients, 423 randomized men with HGPIN (212, selenium; 211, placebo) were eligible (by central pathology review) and included in the primary analysis. Three-year cancer rates were 36.6% (placebo) versus 35.6% (selenium; P = 0.73, adjusted). The majority of patients who developed cancer on trial (70.8%, selenium, and 75.5%, placebo) had a Gleason score of ≤ 6; there were no differences in Gleason scores between the two arms. Subset analyses included the finding of a nonsignificantly reduced PC risk (relative risk = 0.82; 95% confidence interval, 0.40–1.69) in selenium versus placebo patients in the lowest quartile of baseline plasma selenium level (< 106 ng/ml). Overall, and in all other subsets defined by baseline blood selenium levels, selenium supplementation had no effect on PC risk. The 36% PC rate in men with HGPIN indicates the association of this lesion with an elevated PC risk. Future study in this setting should focus on selenium-deficient populations and selenium pharmacogenetics.
Chemoprevention; selenium; prostate cancer; intraepithelial neoplasia; prevention; clinical trials
The recently published report of the SELECT evaluation of selenium and vitamin E provided strong evidence that selenium 200mcg/day in the form of selenomethionine does not protect selenium-replete men against prostate or any other cancer. This appears to refute the result of the much smaller Nutritional Prevention of Cancer (NPC) trial of selenium. Since SELECT did not test the NPC agent, is possible that the difference between the two trials stems partly from the use of different agents: selenomethionine in SELECT, selenized yeast in the NPC trial. One of the organic selenium forms suspected of having strong chemopreventive effects, and which may have been present in the NPC agent, is methyl selenocysteine. This study characterizes the single-dose pharmacokinetics of methyl selenocysteine.
selenium; selenomethionine; methyl selenocysteine; chemoprevention; pharmacokinetics
Compliance with colorectal cancer screening recommendations requires considerable conscious effort on the part of the individual patient, making an individual's decisions about engagement in screening an important contributor to compliance or noncompliance. The objective of this paper was to examine the effectiveness of individual-level behavior theories and their associated constructs in accounting for engagement in colorectal cancer screening behavior. We reviewed the literature examining constructs from formal models of individual-level health behavior as factors associated with compliance with screening for colorectal cancer. All published studies examining one or more constructs from the health belief model, theory of planned behavior, transtheoretical model, or social cognitive theory and their relation to screening behavior or behavioral intentions were included in the analysis. By and large, results of studies supported the theory-based predictions for the influence of constructs on cancer screening behavior. However, the evidence base for many of these relations, especially for models other than the health belief model, is quite limited. Suggestions are made for future research on individual-level determinants of colorectal cancer screening.
colorectal cancer screening; decision making; individual adherence; literature review
Oncoprotein C-MYC is overexpressed in human metastatic melanomas and melanoma-derived cells where it is required for suppression of oncogene-induced senescence (OIS). The genetic events that maintain high levels of C-MYC in melanoma cells and their role in OIS are unknown. Here, we report that C-MYC in cells from several randomly chosen melanoma lines was up-regulated at the protein level, and largely due to the increased protein stability. Of all known regulators of C-MYC stability, levels of B56α subunit of the PP2A tumor suppressor complex were substantially suppressed in all human melanoma cells compared to normal melanocytes. Accordingly, immuno-histochemical analysis revealed that the lowest and the highest amounts of PP2A-B56α were predominantly detected in metastatic melanoma tissues and in primary melanomas from patients with good clinical outcome, respectively. Importantly, PP2A-B56α overexpression suppressed C-MYC in melanoma cells and induced OIS, whereas depletion of PP2A-B56α in normal human melanocytes up-regulated C-MYC protein levels and suppressed BRAFV600E- and, less efficiently, NRASQ61R-induced senescence. Our data reveal a mechanism of C-MYC overexpression in melanoma cells and identify a functional role for PP2A-B56α in OIS of melanocytic cells.
PP2A-B56α; C-MYC; melanoma; senescence
Despite the complexity and variability of decision processes, motor responses are generally stereotypical and independent of decision difficulty. How is this consistency achieved? Through an engineering analogy we consider how and why a system should be designed to realise not only flexible decision-making, but also consistent decision implementation. We specifically consider neurobiologically-plausible accumulator models of decision-making, in which decisions are made when a decision threshold is reached. To trade-off between the speed and accuracy of the decision in these models, one can either adjust the thresholds themselves or, equivalently, fix the thresholds and adjust baseline activation. Here we review how this equivalence can be implemented in such models. We then argue that manipulating baseline activation is preferable as it realises consistent decision implementation by ensuring consistency of motor inputs, summarise empirical evidence in support of this hypothesis, and suggest that it could be a general principle of decision making and implementation. Our goal is therefore to review how neurobiologically-plausible models of decision-making can manipulate speed-accuracy trade-offs using different mechanisms, to consider which of these mechanisms has more desirable decision-implementation properties, and then review the relevant neuroscientific data on which mechanism brains actually use.
Pharmacies are venues in which patients seek out products and professional advice in order to improve overall health. However, many pharmacies in the United States continue to sell tobacco products, which are widely known to cause detrimental health effects. This conflict presents a challenge to pharmacists, who are becoming increasingly more involved in patient health promotion activities. This study sought to assess Western New York (WNY) area pharmacists’ opinions about the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies, and pharmacists’ opinions on their role in patient smoking cessation.
Participants responded to two parallel surveys; a web-based survey was completed by 148 university-affiliated pharmacist preceptors via a list based sample, and a mail-based survey was completed by the supervising pharmacist in 120 area pharmacies via a list-based sample. The combined response rate for both surveys was 31%. Univariate and bivariate analyses were performed to determine any significant differences between the preceptor and supervising pharmacist survey groups.
Over 75% of respondents support legislation banning the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies. Over 86% of respondents would prefer to work in a pharmacy that does not sell tobacco products. Differences between preceptor and supervising pharmacist groups were observed. Action regarding counseling patients was uncommon among both groups.
Pharmacists support initiatives that increase their role in cessation counseling and initiatives that restrict the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies. These data could have important implications for communities and pharmacy practice.
Tobacco sales; Pharmacists; Preceptors; Public health policy; Survey research; Pharmacies
The pay-it-forward reciprocity is a type of cooperative behavior that people who have benefited from others return favors to third parties other than the benefactors, thus pushing forward a cascade of kindness. The phenomenon of the pay-it-forward reciprocity is ubiquitous, yet how it evolves to be part of human sociality has not been fully understood. We develop an evolutionary dynamics model to investigate how network homophily influences the evolution of the pay-it-forward reciprocity. Manipulating the extent to which actors carrying the same behavioral trait are linked in networks, the computer simulation model shows that strong network homophily helps consolidate the adaptive advantage of cooperation, yet introducing some heterophily to the formation of network helps advance cooperation's scale further. Our model enriches the literature of inclusive fitness theory by demonstrating the conditions under which cooperation or reciprocity can be selected for in evolution when social interaction is not confined exclusively to relatives.
A potential susceptibility locus for colorectal cancer on chromosome 9p24 (rs719725) was initially identified through a genome-wide association study, though replication attempts have been inconclusive.
We genotyped this locus and explored interactions with known risk factors as potential sources of heterogeneity, which may explain the previously inconsistent replication. We included Caucasians with colorectal adenoma or colorectal cancer and controls from four studies (total 3891 cases, 4490 controls): the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI); the Diet, Activity and Lifestyle Study (DALS); a Minnesota population-based case-control study (MinnCCS); and the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial (PLCO). We used logistic regression to evaluate the association and test for gene-environment interactions.
SNP rs719725 was statistically significantly associated with risk of colorectal cancer in WHI (OR per A allele 1.19; 95% CI 1.01–1.40; p-trend 0.04), marginally associated with adenoma risk in PLCO (OR per A allele 1.11; 95% CI 0.99–1.25; p-trend 0.07), and not associated in DALS and MinnCCS. Evaluating for gene-environment interactions yielded no consistent results across the studies. A meta-analysis of seventeen studies (including these four) gave an OR per A allele of 1.07 (95% CI 1.03–1.12; p-trend 0.001).
Our results suggest the A allele for SNP rs719725 at locus 9p24 is positively associated with a small increase in risk for colorectal tumors. Environmental risk factors for colorectal cancer do not appear to explain heterogeneity across studies.
If this finding is supported by further replication and functional studies, it may highlight new pathways underlying colorectal neoplasia.
colorectal; adenoma; cancer; 9p24; rs719725
The respective roles of knowledge and search have received considerable attention in the literature on expertise. However, most of the evidence on knowledge has been indirect – e.g., by inferring the presence of chunks in long-term memory from performance in memory recall tasks. Here we provide direct estimates of the amount of monochrestic (single use) and rote knowledge held by chess players of varying skill levels. From a large chess database, we analyzed 76,562 games played in 2008 by individuals ranging from Class B players (average players) to Masters to measure the extent to which players deviate from previously known initial sequences of moves (“openings”). Substantial differences were found in the number of moves known by players of different skill levels, with more expert players knowing more moves. Combined with assumptions independently made about the branching factor in master games, we estimate that masters have memorized about 100,000 opening moves. Our results support the hypothesis that monochrestic knowledge is essential for reaching high levels of expertise in chess. They provide a direct, quantitative estimate of the number of opening moves that players have to know to reach master level.
The relationships between coffee, tea, and sugar-sweetened carbonated soft drink consumption and colon cancer risk remain unresolved.
We investigated prospectively the association between coffee, tea, and sugar-sweetened carbonated soft drink consumption and colon cancer risk in a pooled analysis of primary data from 13 cohort studies. Among 731 441 participants followed for up to 6–20 years, 5604 incident colon cancer case patients were identified. Study-specific relative risks (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated using Cox proportional hazards models and then pooled using a random-effects model. All statistical tests were two-sided.
Compared with nonconsumers, the pooled multivariable relative risks were 1.07 (95% CI = 0.89 to 1.30, Ptrend = .68) for coffee consumption greater than 1400 g/d (about six 8-oz cups) and 1.28 (95% CI = 1.02 to 1.61, Ptrend = .01) for tea consumption greater than 900 g/d (about four 8-oz cups). For sugar-sweetened carbonated soft drink consumption, the pooled multivariable relative risk comparing consumption greater than 550 g/d (about 18 oz) to nonconsumers was 0.94 (95% CI = 0.66 to 1.32, Ptrend = .91). No statistically significant between-studies heterogeneity was observed for the highest category of each beverage consumed (P > .20). The observed associations did not differ by sex, smoking status, alcohol consumption, body mass index, physical activity, or tumor site (P > .05).
Drinking coffee or sugar-sweetened carbonated soft drinks was not associated with colon cancer risk. However, a modest positive association with higher tea consumption is possible and requires further study.
Decision-making animals can use slow-but-accurate strategies, such as making multiple comparisons, or opt for simpler, faster strategies to find a ‘good enough’ option. Social animals make collective decisions about many group behaviours including foraging and migration. The key to the collective choice lies with individual behaviour. We present a case study of a collective decision-making process (house-hunting ants, Temnothorax albipennis), in which a previously proposed decision strategy involved both quality-dependent hesitancy and direct comparisons of nests by scouts. An alternative possible decision strategy is that scouting ants use a very simple quality-dependent threshold rule to decide whether to recruit nest-mates to a new site or search for alternatives. We use analytical and simulation modelling to demonstrate that this simple rule is sufficient to explain empirical patterns from three studies of collective decision-making in ants, and can account parsimoniously for apparent comparison by individuals and apparent hesitancy (recruitment latency) effects, when available nests differ strongly in quality. This highlights the need to carefully design experiments to detect individual comparison. We present empirical data strongly suggesting that best-of-n comparison is not used by individual ants, although individual sequential comparisons are not ruled out. However, by using a simple threshold rule, decision-making groups are able to effectively compare options, without relying on any form of direct comparison of alternatives by individuals. This parsimonious mechanism could promote collective rationality in group decision-making.
To be the fittest is central to proliferation in evolutionary games. Individuals
thus adopt the strategies of better performing players in the hope of successful
reproduction. In structured populations the array of those that are eligible to
act as strategy sources is bounded to the immediate neighbors of each
individual. But which one of these strategy sources should potentially be
copied? Previous research dealt with this question either by selecting the
fittest or by selecting one player uniformly at random. Here we introduce a
parameter that interpolates between these two extreme options.
Setting equal to zero returns the random selection of the
opponent, while positive favor the fitter
players. In addition, we divide the population into two groups. Players from
group select their opponents as dictated by the parameter
, while players from group
do so randomly irrespective of
. We denote the fraction of players contained in groups
and , respectively. The
two parameters and
allow us to analyze in detail how aspirations in the
context of the prisoner's dilemma game influence the evolution of
cooperation. We find that for sufficiently positive values of
there exist a robust intermediate
for which cooperation thrives best. The robustness of
this observation is tested against different levels of uncertainty in the
strategy adoption process and for different
interaction networks. We also provide complete phase diagrams depicting the
dependence of the impact of and
for different values of , and contrast the
validity of our conclusions by means of an alternative model where individual
aspiration levels are subject to evolution as well. Our study indicates that
heterogeneity in aspirations may be key for the sustainability of cooperation in
An important potential advantage of group-living that has been mostly neglected by life scientists is that individuals in animal groups may cope more effectively with unfamiliar situations. Social interaction can provide a solution to a cognitive problem that is not available to single individuals via two potential mechanisms: (i) individuals can aggregate information, thus augmenting their ‘collective cognition’, or (ii) interaction with conspecifics can allow individuals to follow specific ‘leaders’, those experts with information particularly relevant to the decision at hand. However, a-priori, theory-based expectations about which of these decision rules should be preferred are lacking. Using a set of simple models, we present theoretical conditions (involving group size, and diversity of individual information) under which groups should aggregate information, or follow an expert, when faced with a binary choice. We found that, in single-shot decisions, experts are almost always more accurate than the collective across a range of conditions. However, for repeated decisions – where individuals are able to consider the success of previous decision outcomes – the collective's aggregated information is almost always superior. The results improve our understanding of how social animals may process information and make decisions when accuracy is a key component of individual fitness, and provide a solid theoretical framework for future experimental tests where group size, diversity of individual information, and the repeatability of decisions can be measured and manipulated.
The problem of how to compromise between speed and accuracy in decision-making faces organisms at many levels of biological complexity. Striking parallels are evident between decision-making in primate brains and collective decision-making in social insect colonies: in both systems, separate populations accumulate evidence for alternative choices; when one population reaches a threshold, a decision is made for the corresponding alternative, and this threshold may be varied to compromise between the speed and the accuracy of decision-making. In primate decision-making, simple models of these processes have been shown, under certain parametrizations, to implement the statistically optimal procedure that minimizes decision time for any given error rate. In this paper, we adapt these same analysis techniques and apply them to new models of collective decision-making in social insect colonies. We show that social insect colonies may also be able to achieve statistically optimal collective decision-making in a very similar way to primate brains, via direct competition between evidence-accumulating populations. This optimality result makes testable predictions for how collective decision-making in social insects should be organized. Our approach also represents the first attempt to identify a common theoretical framework for the study of decision-making in diverse biological systems.
decision-making; diffusion model; optimality; neurons; social insects; sequential probability ratio test
To investigate cognitive operations underlying sequential problem solving, we confronted ten Goffin’s cockatoos with a baited box locked by five different inter-locking devices. Subjects were either naïve or had watched a conspecific demonstration, and either faced all devices at once or incrementally. One naïve subject solved the problem without demonstration and with all locks present within the first five sessions (each consisting of one trial of up to 20 minutes), while five others did so after social demonstrations or incremental experience. Performance was aided by species-specific traits including neophilia, a haptic modality and persistence. Most birds showed a ratchet-like progress, rarely failing to solve a stage once they had done it once. In most transfer tests subjects reacted flexibly and sensitively to alterations of the locks’ sequencing and functionality, as expected from the presence of predictive inferences about mechanical interactions between the locks.
Two recent case-control studies suggested that some flavonoid subgroups may play a role in preventing colorectal cancer. Previous prospective cohort studies generally reported no association; however, only a small subset of flavonoids was evaluated and partial flavonoid databases were used. We used the newly constructed U.S. Department of Agriculture flavonoid database to examine the association between consumption of total flavonoids, 6 flavonoid subgroups, and 29 individual flavonoids with adenomatous polyp recurrence in the Polyp Prevention Trial. The Polyp Prevention Trial was a randomized dietary intervention trial, which examined the effectiveness of a low-fat, high-fiber, high-fruit, and high-vegetable diet on adenoma recurrence. Intakes of flavonoids were estimated from a food frequency questionnaire. Multivariate logistic regression models (adjusted for age, body mass index, sex, regular non–steroidal anti-inflammatory use, and dietary fiber intake) were used to estimate odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals for both any and advanced adenoma recurrence within quartiles of energy-adjusted flavonoid intake (baseline, during the trial, and change during the trial). Total flavonoid intake was not associated with any or advanced adenoma recurrence. However, high intake of flavonols, which are at greater concentrations in beans, onions, apples, and tea, was associated with decreased risk of advanced adenoma recurrence (4th versus 1st quartile during the trial; odds ratio, 0.24; 95% confidence interval, 0.11, 0.53; Ptrend = 0.0006). Similar inverse associations were observed to a smaller extent for isoflavonoids, the flavonol kaempferol, and the isoflavonoids genistein and formononetin. Our data suggest that a flavonol-rich diet may decrease the risk of advanced adenoma recurrence.