Benjamin Hayden, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Neuroscience


Research 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.

Our lab website is

Selected Publications:

(For a comprehensive list of recent publications, refer to PubMed, a service provided by the National Library of Medicine.)

  • Widge AS, Heilbronner SR, Hayden BY. Prefrontal cortex and cognitive control: new insights from human electrophysiology. F1000Res. 2019 Sep 27;8. pii: F1000 Faculty Rev-1696.
  • Wang MZ, Hayden BY. Beyond "incentive hope": Information sampling and learning under reward uncertainty. Behav Brain Sci. 2019 Jan;42:e56.
  • Mehta PS, Tu JC, LoConte GA, Pesce MC, Hayden BY. Ventromedial prefrontal cortex tracks multiple environmental variables during search. J Neurosci. 2019 Apr 26. pii: 2365-18.
  • Hayden BY. Why has evolution not selected for perfect self-control? Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2019 Feb 18;374(1766):20180139.
  • Wang MZ, Hayden BY. Monkeys are curious about counterfactual outcomes. Cognition. 2019 Mar 16;189:1-10.
  • Yoo SBM, Hayden BY. Economic choice as an untangling of options into actions. Neuron. 2018;99(3):434-447.
  • Cash-Padgett T, Azab H, Yoo SBM, Hayden BY. Opposing pupil responses to offered and anticipated reward values. Anim Cogn. 2018;21(5):671-684.
  • Balasubramani PP, Moreno-Bote R, Hayden BY. Using a simple neural network to delineate some principles of distributed economic choice.  Front Comput Neurosci. 2018 Mar 28;12:22.
  • Farashahi S, Azab H, Hayden B, Soltani A. On the flexibility of basic risk attitudes in monkeys. J Neurosci. 2018 Apr 6. pii: 2260-17.
  • Yoo SBM, Sleezer BJ, Hayden BY.  Robust encoding of spatial information in orbitofrontal cortex and striatum.  J Cogn Neurosci. 2018 Mar 21:1-16.
  • Eisenreich BR, Hayden BY.  Cognitive science: Persistent apes are intelligent apes.  Curr Biol. 2018 Feb 19;28(4):R160-R162.
  • Azab H, Hayden BY.  Correlates of economic decisions in the dorsal and subgenual anterior cingulate cortices. Eur J Neurosci. 2018 Apr;47(8):979-993.
  • Blanchard TC, Piantadosi ST, Hayden BY. Robust mixture modeling reveals category-free selectivity in reward region neuronal ensembles. J Neurophysiol. 2018;119(4):1305-1318.
  • Azab H, Hayden BY. Correlates of decisional dynamics in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex. PLoS Biol. 2017 Nov 15;15(11):e2003091.
  • Hayden BY, Haggard P. Neuroscience: Decision, insight and intention. Curr Biol. 2017 Aug 7;27(15):R750-R753.
  • Wang MZ, Hayden BY. Reactivation of associative structure specific outcome responses during prospective evaluation in reward-based choices. Nat Commun. 2017 Jun 9;8:15821.
  • Eisenreich BR, Akaishi R, Hayden BY. Control without controllers: Toward a distributed neuroscience of executive control. J Cogn Neurosci. 2017 Oct;29(10):1684-1698.
  • Hunt LT, Hayden BY. A distributed, hierarchical and recurrent framework for reward-based choice. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2017 Feb 17;18(3):172-182.
  • Sleezer BJ, LoConte GA, Castagno MD, Hayden BY. Neuronal responses support a role for orbitofrontal cortex in cognitive set reconfiguration. Eur J Neurosci. 2017 Apr;45(7):940-951.
  • Sleezer BJ, Castagno MD, Hayden BY. Rule encoding in orbitofrontal cortex and striatum guides selection. J Neurosci. 2016 Nov 2;36(44):11223-11237.
  • Sleezer BJ, Hayden BY. Differential contributions of ventral and dorsal striatum to early and late phases of cognitive set reconfiguration. J Cogn Neurosci. 2016 Dec;28(12):1849-1864.
  • Ebitz RB, Hayden BY. Dorsal anterior cingulate: a Rorschach test for cognitive neuroscience. Nat Neurosci. 2016 Sep 27;19(10):1278-9.
  • Akaishi R, Hayden BY. A spotlight on reward. Neuron. 2016 Jun 15;90(6):1148-1150.
  • Heilbronner SR, Hayden BY. Dorsal anterior cingulate cortex: A bottom-up view. Annu Rev Neurosci. 2016 Jul 8;39:149-70.
  • Strait CE, Sleezer BJ, Blanchard TC, Azab H, Castagno MD, Hayden BY. Neuronal selectivity for spatial positions of offers and choices in five reward regions. J Neurophysiol. 2016 Mar;115(3):1098-111.
  • Kidd C, Hayden BY. The psychology and neuroscience of curiosity. Neuron. 2015;88(3):449-460.

Current Graduate Students:

Roberto Lopez Cervera (Neuroscience, University of Minnesota).

Tyler Cash-Padgett (Neuroscience, University of Minnesota).

Priyanka Mehta (Neuroscience, University of Minnesota).

Habiba Azab (Neuroscience, University of Minnesota).

Maya Wang (Neuroscience, University of Minnesota).

Michael Yoo (Neuroscience, University of Minnesota).

Ben Hayden