All posts filed under “news

Join the Lab!

Interested in a PhD in Computational Psychiatry?
Then apply to our PhD program until 11 Feburary 2018 to pursue a PhD with me.
Please feel free to contact me in advance and discuss potential projects.

You can find all the details on the page ‘Join the Lab‘.
Looking forward to hearing from you!

Information Gathering across a compulsivity spectrum

We just published a new paper in Translational Psychiatry, where we investigate information gathering behaviour across a compulsivity spectrum. Crucially, we recruited subjects with high or low obsessive-compulsive symptoms, but which were matched for other psychiatric dimensions, such as depressive symptoms. We found that these subjects differed in the extent that they gathered information before making a decision. We thus expend our previous findings in which we show a similar difference in juvenile OCD patients. Our findings thus speak for an increased information gathering being a marker for a compulsive dimensions, which exceeds a mere clinical distinction.

further reading:

Hauser TU, Moutoussis M, Iannaccone R, Brem S, Walitza S, Drechsler R*, Dayan P* & Dolan RJ* (2017). Increased decision thresholds enhance information gathering performance in juvenile obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). PLoS Comput Biol 13(4): e1005440.

Hauser TU, Moutoussis M, NSPN Consortium, Dayan P* & Dolan RJ* (2017). Increased decision thresholds trigger extended information gathering across the compulsivity spectrum. Nat Translat Psychiatry 7(12):1296

Do a PhD with us in Computational Psychiatry

We have a few positions open for a PhD at the Max Planck UCL Centre.
If you are interested in pursuing a PhD in Computational Psychiatry and have a strong background in computational modelling and/or cognitive neuroscience and psychiatry, then please apply for these great positions.
The PhD is fully funded, provides access to cutting edge neuroimaging, a fun and clever group, and great supervision (including myself).
Details can be found here: http://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/BGL952/four-year-phd-in-computational-psychiatry-at-university-college-london

Interview on bornascientist

A friend of mine, Nora Raschle, recently launched an excellent website that provides lots of materials and facts around the brain and science in general. I have to say this is a brilliant resource, especially for children that want to learn about the brain. Please go and visit https://bornascientist.wordpress.com/.
Part of the website also portrays scientists interviewing them why they do science. Here are my answers to these questions: https://bornascientist.wordpress.com/2017/10/24/decision-making-and-solving-the-unknown/

Kramer-Pollnow-Award 2017

I am happy to announce that I received this year’s Kramer-Pollnow Award together with Anna Eichler.
The Kramer-Pollnow Award is a German award primarily for work on attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The committee thought that my previous work on ADHD (esp my paper at TiNS) was worthy for the prize, which I am very humbled by. I would like to thank all the people that were involved in the award and the ceremony – I greatly enjoyed it.


P.S. Yes, I look terrible on the picture…

On effort and reward learning

We have recently published a new paper in PNAS, which investigates how the brains learns about different choice-relevant features, such as effort and reward. We found that learning about both, effort and reward arises from the dopamine-rich midbrain and propagates to different cortical and striatal brain regions.

Hauser TU, Eldar E & Dolan RJ (2017). Separate mesocortical and mesolimbic pathways encode effort and reward learning signals. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. pdf

Noradrenaline blockade boosts metacognition

In a recent study published in eLife, we show that metacognition (the ability to consciously judge one’s performance) can be enhanced using a drug called propranolol. Propranolol blocks beta-adrenoceptors and thus impairs the effect of noradrenaline. Using a double-blind, placebo controlled drug study, we show that propranolol specifically enhances metacognition, but not perceptual decision making performance. A dopamine blockade (using amisulpride) did not affect either process.

Our paper also received some media coverage: The New Scientist just published a nice article about the study. Please note that the title of the article is misleading and was not approved by us. This study investigates the effect of drugs on metacognition and has nothing to do with OCD or OCD treatment.

Hauser TU*, Allen M*, Purg N, Moutoussis M, Rees G & Dolan R (2017). Noradrenaline blockade specifically enhances metacognitive performance. eLife 6: e24901

Information gathering in OCD

Can features of a psychiatric disorder actually have beneficial effects under certain conditions? This is the question that we asked in our new paper that just came out in PLOS Computational Biology. We were particularly interested in an indecisiveness that is often reported in patients with OCD.
Using an information gathering task, in which one is able to collect additional information before committing to a decision, we showed that juvenile OCD patients indeed won more points. Using computational modelling, we were then able to pin down the computational mechanism to a delayed emergence of a subjective feeling of urgency to respond. Our finding thus shows that under certain circumstance, an indecisiveness can actually have beneficial consequences.

Hauser TU, Moutoussis M, Iannaccone R, Brem S, Walitza S, Drechsler R*, Dayan P* & Dolan RJ* (2017). Increased decision thresholds enhance information gathering performance in juvenile obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). PLoS Comput Biol 13(4): e1005440

Metacognition in Compulsivity

I am really proud to announce that I have just preprinted my first ever paper on BioRxiv. In this paper, we investigate the link between metacognition and compulsivity.

Metacognition is the ability – or insight – to monitor your performance. So if you have good metacognitive abilities, you can reliably judge how well you perform on a given task. If not, you have difficulty to say how well you did. Obviously this is critical for our decision making, because you have to know how good you do in your tasks.

Interestingly, it has been suggested that many people with mental health problems have difficulties with such metacognitive decisions. Here we examined how healthy people with higher compulsivity scores perform on such a task. We find that high compulsive participants have a lower metacognitive ability. This difficulty extends a perceptual decision making weakness in our task.

Our findings support an idea of lower metacognitive abilities in a compulsivity spectrum, and thus suggest that metacognitive intervention may help people with higher obsessive-compulsive traits.

The link to our paper is here: http://biorxiv.org/content/early/2017/01/05/098277

Neural effects of tDCS in arithmetic

In our most recent paper, we investigate how brain stimulation (transcranial Direct Current Stimulation, tDCS) can alter neural activity, and how this is specific to a particular arithmetic operation. We used simultaneous tDCS-fMRI to probe the brain regions that are affected by tDCS. We find that activity in the inferior prefrontal cortex is altered during stimulation, but only so when subjects use arithmetic procedures (compared to fact retrieval). These findings are important because they adress two issues: first, it is largely unknown where tDCS really affects the brain – using simulations, we show that these models provide a useful approximation for where the effect really takes place. Second, we illustrate why there is not one single stimulation protocol that enhances all arithmetic/cognitive functions: the brain uses different networks for different functions. So it only works if we stimulate a network that is actually involved. This is also why we need stimulation protocols that are tailored to a specific function, rather than a general “cognition booster”.

Hauser TU, Rütsche B, Wurmitzer K, Brem S, Ruff CC, Grabner RH. (2016). Neurocognitive effects of transcranial Direct Current Stimulation in arithmetic learning and performance: A simultaneous tDCS-fMRI study. Brain Stim