Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care


A Computational Approach to Understanding Motivational Symptoms in Depression

23 October 2019, 12:30 pm–1:30 pm

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to

UCL staff | UCL students






Hannah Rowlands


1-19 Torrington Place
United Kingdom

Motivational symptoms of depression are debilitating and associated with poor clinical outcome, but the mechanisms underlying them are poorly understood. This talk will present data examining how cognitive processes related to effort-based decision making for reward are associated with depressive symptoms, using a computational approach. Results from two studies, including 250 participants (healthy volunteers, unmedicated depressed patients, first degree relatives and remitted depressed patients), will be presented. Participants completed a rewarded physical effort task using a grip squeeze, and motivational symptoms were assessed through questionnaires. Data were analysed using a hierarchical computational approach, with model parameters estimated in a Bayesian framework using sampling. In the non-clinical study (N=90), general depressive symptoms were associated with lower reward sensitivity (P<0.001), while anhedonia was related to a lack of willingness to engage in effortful responding (P<0.05). In the clinical study (N=180), current or past depression was associated with lower propensity to accept challenges, independent of reward or effort level. These findings illuminate the cognitive mechanisms contributing to depressive symptoms relating to disrupted motivational processing.

Please contact h.rowlands@ucl.ac.uk for the password

About the Speaker

Professor Jonathan Roiser

Professor of Neuroscience and Mental Health at UCL

Jonathan Roiser studied Natural Sciences at Trinity College, Cambridge, as an undergraduate, and remained there for his doctorate in the Department of Psychiatry. His PhD focused on the effects of monoamine depletions on mood and cognitive performance, with a particular emphasis on demonstrating that genetic variations can explain some of the variability commonly observed between individuals in their vulnerability to perturbations of the serotonin system. He then spent a year conducting a pharmacological fMRI study at the National Institute of Mental Health, USA, in patients recovered from depression and controls.

Following a post-doctoral appointment at the UCL Institute of Neurology, London, where he investigated the neural mechanisms underpinning psychotic phenomena and cognitive impairment in schizophrenia, he was appointed to a faculty post at the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience. He has published over 100 peer-reviewed papers and his laboratory is currently funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Leverhulme Trust. In 2008 he founded the UCL-NIMH Joint Doctoral Training Program in Neuroscience, which he co-directs. His research interests remain focused on understanding the neurobiological basis of psychiatric symptoms, combining behavioural, psychopharmacological and genetic approaches with neuroimaging techniques. In the future he hopes to continue his work on understanding the sources of individual differences in responses to  pharmacological treatment in psychiatric conditions, particularly depression.

More about Professor Jonathan Roiser