Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience


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



+44 20 7679 1170

John Roiser

Oliver Robinson

Group Leader



+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.

PhD Students 

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.

Peter Kirk

Peter Kirk

I am a PhD student on the Leverhulme Ecological Brain DTP. I am interested in how affective systems modulate perceptual and cognitive processes, with a specific focus on threat. My PhD is concerned with predicting everyday fluctuations in anxiety across naturalistic contexts. For this, I am utilizing cognitive, neural, and psychophysiological recordings for in- and out-of-lab experiments. 

Millie Lowther

Millie Lowther

I am 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.

Anahit Mkrtchian

Anahit Mkrtchian

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

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).

Priya Rajyaguru 

Priya Rajyaguru

I am a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist and Wellcome Trust Clinical PhD Fellow working with Professor Jon Roiser (Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, UCL) and Professor Glyn Lewis (Division of Psychiatry, UCL). My research focusses on understanding the neurocognitive basis of rumination, characterised by repetitive and perseverative thinking, seen in a number of mental health difficulties. I am interested in this style of thinking in adolescents and am particularly curious about the associations between rumination and depression in this age group. 

Anahita Talwar

Anahita Talwar

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.

Yumeya Yamamori

yumeya yamamori

I am a PhD student funded by a Wellcome Trust 4-year Studentship in Science. I'm working with Prof Jonathan Roiser and Dr Oliver Robinson on pathologically repetitive behaviours like avoidance behaviours and drug-seeking. My specific aim is to understand the factors which might lead behaviour to become inflexible and maladaptive, and ultimately how this relates to clinical symptoms.

Harry Costello

Harry Costello Smiling At Camera


Harry Costello is a Specialist Registrar in General Adult and Old Age Psychiatry, and Wellcome Trust Clinical Training Fellow in the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience. He is currently undertaking a PhD in neuropsychiatric research related to depression in Parkinson’s disease. 


Research Assistants

Karel Kieslich

Karol Kielish

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.



Nura Sidarus

Nura Sidarus

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.