All posts filed under “news

New Brain Explorer Research App released

Why do most mental health illnesses first manifest before adulthood? Our group has launched a new smartphone app to investigate how brain development is linked to mental health in a new citizen science project.

The Brain Explorer app ( uses the latest state-of-the-art insights from neuroscience research to investigate brain functions in fun and entertaining games for young and old. By playing these games, people can learn about their own brain functions, and at the same time help the researchers to better understand how brain functions are related to the emergence of mental health problems.

“We know that the brain changes substantially during adolescence”, says Dr Tobias Hauser, lead scientist on the project, “but we do not know how impaired brain development causes mental health problems. This app will help us understand why mental health problems arise during adolescence.” A better understanding of how abnormal brain development leads to mental health problems will allow researchers to build new models to predict emerging psychiatric illnesses and can help develop novel interventions.

Everyone can contribute to research

Brain Explorer is a citizen science project that allows everyone to be a researcher and to help understand the mysteries of the brain. In citizen science, the publics will directly contribute to research, and using Brain Explorer they can even do so from their couch at home. “It is super important to us that everyone can contribute to our research. Mental health affects us all and we want everyone to have a voice and help us discover how the brain is linked to mental health.”, says Dr Hauser. Everyone is invited to download the app and to contribute to science – old and young, with and without mental health disorder. Using citizen science not only helps Dr Hauser’s team to collect ‘big data’ from the general population, but also makes the research process much more transparent to the publics, a critical measure to counteract the growing scepticism towards science.

Dr Hauser’s team is particularly interested in those mental health problems that are often overlooked. Many mental health disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are common in the population (approx. 1 in 30 is affected), but are often hidden from public perception. This is particularly problematic as people suffering from OCD often struggle to get appropriate help in time, and research into these disorders is seriously underfunded so that researchers still know very little about these disorders.

While the app will not diagnose or give feedback on the user’s mental health, it will allow the researchers to study the mechanisms between changes in the brain and the development mental health disorders.

Playful and engaging user experience

The Brain Explorer app is unique because it combines cutting-edge research with a playful and engaging user experience. All brain games and questionnaires are embedded in an outer space game universe. Users are rewarded for their contributions and can win trophies to unlock hidden games. They can compare their own brain performance to others and try to beat their own high scores. “The Brain Explorer app is the perfect example of a citizen science project: it is fun and entertaining for participants, built on the neuroscientific rigor of world-leading scientists.”, says Cassandra Hugill, Public Engagement Manager and Science Communication expert.

This citizen science project is conducted at the Max Planck Centre UCL for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research, and the Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging at University College London (UCL). It is supported by grants from Wellcome and the Royal Society, Jacobs Foundation, the Medical Research Foundation, and the Max-Planck Society.

Download the app now on:

Apple Store:

Google Play Store:

For infos, visit or Twitter

PostDoc position available

We are looking for PostDocs!

If you are interested to work with Tobias, please get in touch with Tobias. If you want to do research in computational psychiatry, decision neuroscience, OCD, or developmental cognitive neuroscience, let Tobias know and he is happy to discuss opportunities with you.

Postdocs will have access to the latest, cutting-edge methods at the Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging (MRI 3T/7T, MEG, OPM, etc) and be part of the Max Planck Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research in Central London. If you are interested in a position, please directly contact Tobias (t.hauser [at]

Sir Henry Dale Fellowship awarded

It is my great pleasure to announce that I was awarded a Sir Henry Dale Fellowship from Wellcome Trust and the Royal Society to establish my own group at the Max Planck UCL Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research, and the Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging. There will be opportunities for working with me – so please get in touch if you are interested in doing a PhD or PostDoc in decision neuroscience and computational psychiatry.

New PhD position – Join!

Interested in a PhD in Computational Psychiatry?
Then apply to our PhD program until 26 August 2018 to pursue a PhD with me.
Please feel free to contact me in advance and discuss potential projects. The lab will mainly be looking at Developmental Computational Psychiatry and/or OCD, but is relatively open to exciting novel ideas.

You can find all the details on the page ‘Join the Lab‘.

Jacobs Research Fellowship

I am very happy that I received a Research Fellowship from the Jacobs Foundation.
This Fellowship will allow me to investigate the mechanisms underlying curiosity during development. I will also become part of a great network of scientists that are interested in development during childhood and adolescence.
If you want to know more about the project and the network, please have a look here:

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:

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
Part of the website also portrays scientists interviewing them why they do science. Here are my answers to these questions:

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…