Our group studies changes in motivation, memory and decision-making that occur in neurological disease. We combine behavioural, neuroimaging, and pharmacological experiments to apply cognitive neuroscience to clinical problems.
Motivation is our ability to perform better with incentives. It allows us to exceed our natural performance limits, by
- energising action,
- boosting attention, and
- improving motor and cognitive precision.
We model motivation using the idea of “costly noise-reduction”. According to this view, the signal-to-noise ratio in the brain can be increased, but this is expensive. The cost for being precise explains why we perform better when we are likely to be rewarded. The lab studies the nature of these precision costs:
- Do specific brain structures help control noise?
- Are there specific brain chemicals involved?
- Can these costs be increased in disease and reduced by drugs?
We study patients with neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s disease, and patients who have brain damage, for example due to stroke. By studying the effects of reward on behaviour in these groups, and whether the neurotransmitters dopamine and acetylcholine modulate these effects, we test quantitative computational and neuroeconomic models of motivation.