Research

The major focus of my research is how affective information is represented in brain activity, and how it interacts with other brain processes. The term "affective" refers to how something makes you feel, and includes subjective evaluations. For example, do you want a bagel or cereal for breakfast? There's no right or wrong answer, but many things could factor into your choice. You might recall the last time you ate a bagel, or maybe you've had them so many times that you can conjure what an average bagel would be like. You might consider how you feel right now. Are you hungry? Would you like something sweet like cereal? Maybe the context is important. If you're at a bakery, they probably make good bagels, but if you're at home and the bagels are old, maybe they don't sound so good.

Estimates of how good or bad something will be influence our actions and choices, as well as how we experience the world. In disorders like depression or anxiety, expectations of bad or threatening events can have exaggerated influence and severely impact day-to-day life. To understand how the brain computes these affective expectancies and how they exert their effects, I directly record neural activity while subjects learn, make choices and evaluate. I combine hypothesis-driven behavioral designs with large-scale neurophysiological recordings that enable computational approaches to map neural dynamics onto behavior and cognition.