Computational neural modeling
We need theories and, better yet, computational model simulations to help us make sense of the overwhelming complexity of the brain. We build computational neural models with the aim of capturing behavioral, neuroimaging, neurophysiology, and neuropsychological data all in a single model, such as the PRO model and HER model. Our models focus on understanding the frontal lobes and how they interact with other brain regions to support decision-making, planning, and problem-solving. We also model how clinical populations differ from healthy individuals, especially with addiction.
Functional MRI of higher cognitive function
Computational models and theories of brain function make the clearest predictions about what patterns of activity we expect to find in the human brain. We test those theories with fMRI, both in normal, healthy individuals and clinical populations.
We are addressing the enormous burden of addiction with two main research efforts. First, we are looking at the neural mechanisms of how individuals make decisions to use drugs. Subjects play our “gambling for drugs” task in the scanner, in which case they have to choose among gambling options. If they win, they get a small amount of nicotine vapor from our specially-adapted electronic cigarette immediately after their decision, while they are still in the MR scanner.
In a second line of research, we are investigating custom, non-invasive deep brain stimulation technology as a potential means of disrupting addiction processes directly at the neural level.