Prof Montague

Computational Psychiatry & the Neuroscience of Social Behaviour

Professor Read Montague

Professor Read Montague CV (pdf)

This research program seeks to uncover the computational and neural mechanisms supporting social cognition in humans for the purpose of understanding and treating psychopathologies. This goal is being pursued through three separate but interacting lines of inquiry that will 1) develop computational models of human social exchange, 2) test and adjust these models based on neuroimaging and behavioural data, and 3) apply the results to actual psychopathology groups.

Social exchange occurs in species ranging from insects to humans and breaks down to varying degrees in a range of mental disorders. We and others have been developing models of the computational components of simple social exchange. One value of this approach is its capacity to produce quantitative descriptions of social gestures, identify their neural correlates, connect these components to neural quantities, and relate both to pathologies of social exchange.

In conditions ranging from psychosis to developmental and personality disorders, afflicted individuals can display a dramatically perturbed capacity to model others and to sense and respond appropriately to the social signals they emit. As an example, our most recent work has used an iterated social exchange game, adaptive computer agents, and functional MRI to provide parametric neural and behavioral signatures of a personality disorder (King-Casas et al., 2008). We view this as a first step toward identifying computations associated with mental problems resulting from a range of diseases, injury, or developmental disorders. This approach, which we have called Computational Psychiatry, seeks to connect underlying (measurable) changes in neurobiological function to observable changes in behavioral endpoints, but in computational terms.

Example publications:

Gu X, Lohrenz T, Salas R, Baldwin PR, Soltani A, Kirk U, Cinciripini PM, Montague PR (2015).
Belief about nicotine selectively modulates value and reward prediction error signals in smokers.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (USA), Pii201416639
[COMMENTARY: Beliefs modulate the effects of drugs on the human brain]

Kishida KT, Saez I, Lohrenz T, Witcher MR, Laxton AW, Tatter SB, White JP, Ellis TL, Phillips PE, Montague PR. (2015).
Subsecond dopamine fluctuations in human striatum encode superposed error signals about actual and counterfactual reward.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA).201513619.
[COMMENTARY: Dopamine: Context and counterfactuals]

Smith A, Lohrenz T, King J, Montague PR, Camerer CF. (2014).
Irrational exuberance and neural crash warning signals during endogenous experimental market bubbles.
Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 111(29), 10503-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1318416111. Epub 2014 Jul 7.

Ahn WY, Kishida KT, Gu X, Lohrenz T, Harvey A, Alford JR, Smith KB, Yaffe G, Hibbing JR, Dayan P, Montague PR. (2014).
Nonpolitical images evoke neural predictors of political ideology.
Current Biology 24(22), doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.09.050. Nov; 24:1-7.

Xiang T, Lohrenz T, Montague PR. (2013).
Computational Substrates of Norms and Their Violations during Social Exchange.
J.Neurosci 33(3), 1099-108.
[COMMENTARY: Modeling emottion and learning of norms in social interactions]

Bhatt, MA, Lohrenz T, Camerer CF, Montague PR. (2012).
Distinct contributions of the amygdala and parahippocampal gyrus to suspicion in a repeated bargaining game.
Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. May 29;109(22):8728-33. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1200738109. Epub May 10.

Xiang T, Ray D, Lohrenz T, Dayan P, Montague PR. (2012).
Computational phenotyping of two-person interactions reveals differential neural response to depth-of-thought.
PLoS Comput Biol 2012 8(12): e1002841. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002841. Epub 2012 Dec 27.


  • Andreas Hula
  • Tobias Nolte
  • Hinal Patel
  • Natasha Smyth
  • Iris Vilares


Virginia Tech PublicationsProfessor Montague's Publications