Psychiatry in
Action lab
Psychiatry in Action lab

About our research

It may seem quite menial, but even a simple action like reaching for a cup of coffee requires complex, yet instantaneous computations by the brain. In addition to variables like how full the cup is or the shape of the cup, there are many other factors that can affect these computations. Changes in cognition, such as memories of using similar cups in the past, and in mental health, affecting how much we value drinking this coffee – can all determine how we will reach for and grasp this cup of coffee. Our research aims to improve our understanding of the links between cognition, mental health and action both in health and disease. We combine clinical and basic neuroscience methods for our research.

Cup of coffee. Reaching and holding it requires complex computations in the brain.

Current Projects

Transdiagnostic approach to human motivation: how do people perceive effort?

Changes in motivation are common in many neurological and psychiatric conditions, such as dementia and depression, but also in healthy individuals and in normal ageing. We attempt to understand the core mechanisms explaining individual differences in motivation. Our current project looks at how people perceive effort. To study this, we use a set of neurophysiological measures in tasks requiring physical and/or cognitive effort.

This project is funded by Israel Science Foundation (ISF).

Characterising Negative Symptoms in Schizophrenia

We investigate the processes underlying the cluster of symptoms called 'negative symptoms' in schizophrenia. These symptoms include reduced motivation or 'apathy' and reduced emotional expressivity. Although they tend to be overlooked and far less studied than 'positive symptoms' of hallucinations and delusions, negative symptoms determine long-term clinical outcome in patients.

In this project, we ask what leads to apathy in patients, and how this can be potentially treated. To investigate this, we use computerised tasks that ask participants to decide whether and which actions to perform under different experimental conditions.

This project is done in collaboration with Emilio Fernandez at the University of Cambridge.

Belief updating and learning to adapt to environmental changes

We look at how individual differences in mental health and age affect how people update their beliefs about the environment. Specifically, we examine how people adapt their behaviour in different contexts, and whether there is a common construct shared by belief updating tasks. We investigate whether changes in belief updating may put an individual at risk of mental health conditions, such as delusions and negative symptoms.

This project done is in collaboration with Matt Nassar at Brown University.