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Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience

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Neuroscience and Mental Health

Neuroscience and Mental Health group investigates neural and cognitive mechanisms underlying psychiatric symptoms. The group is co-directed by Jonathan Roiser (Depression Lab) and Oliver Robinson (Anxiety Lab).

Jonathan Roiser

Group Leader

 

j.roiser@ucl.ac.uk

+44 20 7679 1170

John Roiser

Oliver Robinson

Group Leader

 

o.robinson@ucl.ac.uk

+44 20 7679 1138

Oliver Robinson

Neuroscience and Mental Health Research

Our aim is to understand the neural and cognitive mechanisms underlying psychiatric symptoms. We utilise experimental techniques drawn from cognitive psychology, functional neuroimaging, psychopharmacology, computational modelling and genetics, both in individuals suffering from mental health problems and healthy volunteers.

Group Members

Post-doctoral Research Fellows

Alex Pike

Alex Pike

I am a Postdoctoral researcher working with Dr Oliver Robinson on his MRC grant, which aims to further develop our understanding of the computational and neurobiological mechanisms underpinning anxiety disorders, with the eventual aim of using this work to improve treatments. I am particularly interested in how computational modelling can lead to a more sophisticated understanding of how anxiety disorders might arise, and how the computational models we use are realised in the brain.

Vincent Valton

Vincent Valton
v.valton@ucl.ac.uk

I am a Postdoctoral researcher in computational neuropsychiatry working with Prof. Jon Roiser at the ICN (Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, UCL), and collaborating with Prof. Peter Dayan (Gatsby Unit, UCL). I work primarily on a Wellcome Trust project awarded to Prof. Roiser aiming at elucidating reward and punishment processing anomalies in Depression. Using computational methods such as Reinforcement-Learning or Bayesian inference models, we attempt to assay various hypotheses of cognitive processes (e.g. learning and/or decision-making) that may go awry in mental illness. Ultimately, the goals of this project are to identify the neurobiological and computational processes that may differ to that of healthy subjects in Depression. These, could in turn lead to a better understanding of the continuum and/or sub-categories observed in Depression and result in better “personalised care” for patients.

Learn more about me at my website.

PhD Students 

Annamaria Balogh

Annamaria Balogh
annamaria.balogh.18@ucl.ac.uk

I am a PhD student funded by the UCL Institute of Mental Health. In my research, I use neurscientific methods to explore cognitive biases occurring in mood and anxiety disorders. Ultimately, the aim of my research is to further our understanding of individual differences in response to cognitive behavioural therapy, and to develop more tailored treatments for patients who suffer from debilitating mood and anxiety disorders. 

Hugo Fleming

Hugo Fleming

I am a PhD student funded by a Wellcome Trust 4-year Studentship in Neuroscience. My research is focussed on understanding a phenomenon called cognitive control, which refers to the way that we can adaptively regulate our own thoughts and actions in order to achieve particular goals. This is thought to be impaired in certain disorders including anxiety and depression, so understanding cognitive control may help to inform clinical research in the future.

Anahit Mkrtchian

Anahit Mkrtchian
anahit.mkrtchian@nih.gov

I am a PhD student on the Wellcome Trust-NIH programme working on a transatlantic project with Prof Jonathan Roiser at UCL and Dr Carlos Zarate at the National Institute of Mental Health in Washington, D.C. My research focuses on understanding the cognitive, computational and neural mechanisms driving the beneficial effects of ketamine – a novel rapid-acting pharmacological antidepressant – in treatment-resistant depression. I am specifically interested in the motivational processes underlying ketamine’s acute and sustained effects on improving motivational symptoms.

Madeleine Payne

Madeleine Moses-Payne
m.payne@ucl.ac.uk

I am an MRC-funded PhD student on the UCL-Birkbeck Neuroscience and Mental Health program. My research focuses on why many mental health disorders first appear during adolescence - the period of life that spans the teens and early 20s. My specific focus is on self-concept development during adolescence and the development of our ability to introspect on our own thoughts and feelings (metacognition).

Anahita Talwar

Anahita Talwar
anahita.talwar.15@ucl.ac.uk

I am a PhD student on the MRC DTP CASE programme supervised by Prof Jonathan Roiser and Dr Quentin Huys, and collaborating with Cambridge Cognition. I am working on developing computational models for the CANTAB tasks that can be used to identify more objective differences in the neurobiology of  healthy and depressed individuals. Ultimately this understanding could allow for more targeted treatments for patients.

 

Research Assistants

Karel Kieslich

Karol Kielish
karel.kieslich@ucl.ac.uk

I am a Research Assistant working on a Wellcome Trust funded project with Professor Jonathan Roiser and Dr Vincent Valton. We are currently investigating what is the role of dopamine in motivational symptoms in depression. Using computerised cognitive tasks, functional neuroimaging and computational models of decision making, our aim is to identify the neural and cognitive mechanisms which underlie the motivational symptoms in depression. We hope that this could result in improved treatments targeting these symptoms.

 

Millie Lowther

Millie Lowther
millie.lowther@ucl.ac.uk

I am a Research Assistant working with Dr. Oliver Robinson and Alexandra Pike. We’re using computerised tasks and fMRI imaging to investigate the effects of common treatments for anxiety disorders on emotional processing. The aim of this research is to characterise the neurobiological mechanisms of these interventions in order to inform treatment strategies.

Affiliates

Rick Adams

Rick Adams
rick.adams@ucl.ac.uk

My research interest is in using the techniques of Computational Psychiatry to understand schizophrenia and psychosis. Understanding the brain at a computational level allows us to link biological, social and psychological accounts of mental function and dysfunction in a mathematically rigorous way (Adams et al., 2015, JNNP). 

Chamith Halahakoon

Chamith Halahakoon
c.halahakoon@ucl.ac.uk

I am a Clinical Research Associate working on a Wellcome Trust funded project in Professor Jonathan Roiser’s lab. Madeleine Payne, Vincent Valton and I are currently running a study in which we are investigating the effects of dopamine on reward processing in depression. Our ultimate goal is to uncover the mechanisms that underlie depression and discover how these can be altered in a therapeutic way.

Nura Sidarus

Nura Sidarus
nsidarus@gmail.com

I am interested in understanding how we make decisions and how we come to feel in control of our actions and their consequences, i.e. have a sense of agency. Using behavioural, computational, and neuroimaging methods, I investigate influences on learning and decision-making, e.g. due to distracting stimuli, freedom of choice, confidence in a decision (aka metacognition), and how these also interact with our sense of agency. I have also started to take a computational psychiatry approach to exploring how these (meta)cognitive processes may become maladaptive and underlie psychiatric symptoms, such as depression. This new project is supported by an ESRC New Investigator Grant, and a collaboration with Prof Jon Roiser and the Neuroscience of Mental Health group. I’m also a lecturer in Psychology, at Royal Holloway University of London.

Find out more about my work on my website.