Please find our guests for this series by alphabetic order by surname
Dr Awais Aftab is a practising psychiatrist in the US and Clinical Assistant Professor at CWRU, Department of Psychiatry, and Attending Psychiatrist at Northcoast Behavioral Healthcare. His research studies a range of psychiatric conditions from depression, anxiety and bipolar but he also has a strong passion for educating people on what modern psychiatric care looks like and what can be done to understand and improve the care we provide.
Lab website: proactionlab.fpce.uc.pt
My research addresses the neural mechanisms that subserve object processing. In particular, my work focuses on studying how we interact with and recognize manipulable objects. I also have extensive work on aspects of neural processing and network activity, and specifically on how local processing in a given region is influenced by distally processed information. Finally, I am also interested in topics of neuroplasticity and have contributed to the current understanding of cross-modal plasticity in the congenitally deaf. To address these issues, I use a multimodal approach that spans fMRI, Neuromodulation, Neuropsychological and behavioural data.
Dr. Nicole Barbaro holds a Ph.D. in psychology with a specialization in evolution and human development from Oakland University. She currently works as a Research Scientist for WGU Labs, an education innovation hub striving to advance ingenuity in the higher education space, and serves as the Communications Officer for HBES. Nicole’s expertise centers on human evolution, behavior genetics, and human development with an applied focus on how evolutionary social science can inform teaching and learning strategies in higher education.
Prof. Per Borghammer is a Professor of Nuclear Medicine and Neuroscience at the Aaarhus University Hospital in Denmark. Per uses complex nuclear medicine to safely study the progression of neurological diseases and how the metabolism of our brains and bodies change while people are suffering from conditions like Parkinson’s. While it may sound counter-intuitive to study a sick patient with a radioactive material Per’s work uses minuscule amounts of the isotype which have no effect on the patient’s health but let scientists study how different chemicals are being used by the body in different locations. In his episode, we talk about how dopamine degeneration can begin in the neurons used by the intestines to coordinate digestion and through the connections between the intestines and the brain the loss of dopamine-producing cells continues
How brain activity emerges from the connections between brain regions is a fundamental and unanswered question in neuroscience. Despite the large quantities of brain imaging data collected, both clinical and experimental, the mechanisms responsible for the variety of observed behaviours remain elusive. The interdisciplinary field of mathematical neuroscience applies sophisticated tools from mathematics to neural activity. Placing brain activity in a mathematical context enables new understanding and insights to be gained into this intellectual void.
My research looks specifically at transitions between different brain states, for example the transition between wake and sleep. Here the unpredictable onset of epileptic seizures is a primary example. I consider the brain as a network of interconnected regions each containing millions of neurons. When one brain region transitions into a seizure it may induce a seizure in a second brain region, which in turn induces a seizure in a third region and so on. This process can be thought of as a cascading domino effect. The timings and order of the domino effect are emergent properties of underlying brain network that can give insight into how seizures start and spread. I use mathematical tools designed for systems that change with time, to build and analyse network models. I use patients’ brain recordings to identify the network connectivity and individual region properties. In this way, I aim to identify the underlying drivers of seizures and potential indicators that can be used in clinical settings to aid diagnosis and tailor treatment plans.
Paul Eastwick’s research investigates how people initiate romantic relationships and the psychological mechanisms that help romantic partners to remain committed and attached. One of his research programs examines how the qualities that people say are critically important to them in a romantic partner—their ideal partner preferences—direct romantic partner selection and retention. He is also interested in exploring how close relationships research can inform evolutionary psychological approaches (and vice versa), especially with respect to the way that relationships grow and develop over time (read about the ReCAST model here and the data supporting it here). Additionally, his work draws from anthropological data on the time course of human evolution to make novel psychological predictions.
Michael J Frank
Our research combines multiple levels of computational modelling and experimental work to understand the neural mechanisms underlying reinforcement learning, decision making and cognitive control. We develop neural circuit and algorithmic models that simulate systems-level interactions between multiple brain areas (primarily prefrontal cortex and basal ganglia and their modulation by dopamine). We test theoretical predictions of the models using various neuropsychological, pharmacological, genetic, and imaging (primarily EEG) techniques.
Our decisions are powerfully shaped by internal states (such as hunger or thirst) and external representations driven by sensory inputs. A fundamental question is how these sources of information interact to produce flexible decision-making strategies that are adaptive and achieve desired outcomes. Flexible decision-making underlies complex cognitive functions like problem-solving and reasoning and goes awry in neuropsychiatric disorders like schizophrenia, anxiety, and addiction. The vastly interconnected cortical and subcortical systems of the brain are crucial neural substrates for the adaptive control of behaviour. Yet, the organizing principles for how interactions within and between these systems support flexible decision-making behaviours have remained elusive.
The prefrontal cortex (PFC) and thalamic areas have access to both internal and external representations via converging inputs from multiple brain areas. These areas in turn provide diverging outputs, allowing them to rapidly reconfigure brain-wide processes to guide decision-making. Our overarching hypothesis is that specific PFC and thalamic neuronal populations facilitate flexible decision-making by recruiting specialized ensembles of neurons in their target structures. A significant challenge in testing this hypothesis has been the lack of tools for selectively probing the activity of defined neuronal populations. However, recent advancements in optical techniques for recording and manipulating neuronal activity with high spatiotemporal resolution, combined with methods for targeting neuronal populations based on their genetic and/or anatomical identity, finally make this a tractable problem to solve.
Dr. Alan Jern teaches psychology, including new courses in social and computational psychology. He is a cognitive scientist and uses computational models and behavioural experiments to study how people think and reason. Dr. Jern’s research interests include how people think about other people, how people learn and use concepts, and how people revise their beliefs after seeing new evidence. Check out his personal web page.
My research program centres on understanding the neurophysiological and functional basis of internal attention. This is a core human experience that occupies up to half of our awake time. Commonly known as mind wandering, it involves attending internally to cognitive processes such as autobiographical memory recall, decision making and future planning.
My lab uses a unique combination of cognitive neuroscience approaches to study internal attention, including behaviour, pupillometry, scalp and intracranial EEG. We investigate internal attention in healthy individuals, clinical populations, neuropsychological patients with structural brain damage and neurosurgical patients with medically refractory epilepsy who are evaluated for surgical treatment to control their seizures.
Currently, we are interested in elucidating the causal relevance of brain regions in internal attention as well as the spatiotemporal dynamics supporting internal attention. Having previously established the core scalp EEG signatures of internal attention in healthy and clinical populations, my lab now uses these EEG signatures and machine learning models to predict periods of internal attention. Finally, we are also interested in studying internal attention in naturalistic settings, and understanding the relationship between internal attention and other important aspects of our daily life, including creativity and task performance.
Nikolaus Kriegeskorte is a computational neuroscientist who studies how our brains enable us to see and understand the world around us. He received his PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience from Maastricht University, held postdoctoral positions at the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research at the University of Minnesota and the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, and was a Programme Leader at the U.K. Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at the University of Cambridge. Kriegeskorte is a Professor at Columbia University, affiliated with the Departments of Psychology and Neuroscience. He is a Principal Investigator and Director of Cognitive Imaging at the Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute at Columbia University. Kriegeskorte is a co-founder of the conference “Cognitive Computational Neuroscience”, which had its inaugural meeting in September 2017 at Columbia University.
Will you also share the URL of the PNAS
Dr. Michael Wenzel is a Research Clinician who started his professional career at LMU Munich, completed a 4-year post-doc at Columbia University in Rafael Yuste’s lab in New York, and is currently situated at the University of Bonn, Germany. Forming part of the Hertie Network of Excellence in Clinical Neuroscience, he splits his effort between clinical neurology with a focus on clinical epileptology, and basic research in cellular scale network neurophysiology.
Dr. Wenzel’s two main research interests comprise neural micro-network mechanisms in chronic epilepsy and medically induced loss of consciousness. His group at Bonn University combines cutting edge cellular scale chronic in vivo two-photon imaging with electrophysiology, and behavioural assessment in mice. In close collaboration with the Dept. of Epileptology in Bonn, his group relates their murine findings to cellular resolution electrical recordings from depth electrode recordings in human patients.
Meltem Yucel is a sixth-year Developmental Psychology Ph.D. candidate at the University of Virginia working with Dr. Amrisha Vaish. She is also a fellow of the International Max Planck Research School on the Life Course (LIFE Academy), Student Affiliate at the Center for the Science of Moral Understanding, and Research Affiliate Intern at the Cornell University’s Early Childhood Cognition Lab.
Meltem is primarily interested in the development of social cognition and morality, specifically focusing on how and when children become moral beings. Using behavioural, eye-tracking, pupillometry, and network analysis methods, her research investigates how children and adults understand and enforce norms, and the role of affect in moral decision-making (Yucel, Hepach, & Vaish, 2020; Yucel & Vaish, 2018).