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Research theme


We use neuroimaging to ask:

How brain activity:

  • Generates emotions (e.g. fear, anger, happiness)
  • Changes its responses during reward and punishment
  • Changes in someone who is depressed or anxious
  • Predicts whether a person will shift their behaviour or emotional state
  • Predicts emotional states and decisions (e.g. risk taking)

How emotions:

  • Influence behaviour (actions and decisions) for better or worse
  • Override reason and rationality
  • Are underpinned by representations of value (good or bad)
  • Are influenced by the environment or another’s evaluation
  • Are detected and self-monitored

Our goal is to:

Create computational models of the relationship between emotion, behaviour and brain activity, and to use these models to understand:

  • How emotional processing is impacted in psychiatric and neurological disorders
  • How these disorders can be treated.


We have generated computational models of behaviour and neuroimaging data to understand:

  • Different types of emotion
  • The relationship between emotions with perceived value (good/bad)
  • How these processes go awry in psychiatric disorders

Our smart phone apps (e.g. are testing many different aspects of cognition including memory, impulsivity, attention and decision making.

In the future, new smartphone apps can be used to study people with psychiatric disorders including anxiety and depression. The use of apps improves the frequency and ease of data collection which may lead to richer data sampling in clinical trials.

Our research into the neural mechanisms of emotion aims to benefit patients with:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Generalised anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Dementia
  • Parkinson’s disease

Recent work


  • Activity in deep ventral striatal parts of the human brain is related to future happiness (Rutledge et al., 2014)
  • Optimism bias when updating beliefs about the future is reduced in depression, as reflected by abnormally strong neural coding of estimation errors in response to bad news regarding the future (Korn et al., 2014)
  • Abnormally strong negative emotions (anger and anxiety) in response to everyday sounds (e.g. eating, drinking, chewing, and breathing) is related to greatly exaggerated brain responses in the anterior insular cortex and its connections to the amygdala, hippocampus, medial prefrontal and parietal areas (Kumar et al., 2017)


Teams in this research area