Our Research

In Neuroscience: We ask questions such as: How can we develop more realistic behavioral paradigms for stopping inappropriate response tendencies? What are the critical nodes in the human brain for behavioral response control? How do deficits in response control in simple laboratory tasks relate to clinical impulse control disorders? How does stopping affect long term memory retrieval? The lab has a particular focus on the prefrontal cortex and the basal ganglia. Some example projects are listed below. The lab has systems for Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation and EEG. Our MRI scanning is done at the UCSD fMRI center. We collaborate with clinician-scientists to study Parkinson’s patients. We also study response control in mice via a collaboration with UCSD Neurobiology. Current funding is from the National Institutes of Health (NIDA, NINDS).

In social psychology: We are conducting empirical studies of the psychological determinants of engagement in real-world climate activism. Current major collaborators are: Anna Castiglione (Italy), and Cameron Brick (Amsterdam). Current funding is from the UCSD Dean of Social Sciences.

Psychological studies on the building blocks of climate activism

Time is running out to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Governments and international bodies are mostly incapable of genuine action. The grassroots collective action movement is critical, but the factors that determine who joins are poorly understood. We are conducting a large-scale longitudinal study to understand this better. This work is supported by a grant from the UCSD Dean of Social Science.

Local Field Potential Recording in Parkinson’s Patients

The subthalamic nucleus of the basal ganglia appears to be an important node in wider fronto-basal-ganglia circuits for stopping action. With collaborators at Toronto Western Hospital in Canada we are recording from the subthalamic nucleus while patients perform simple tasks. See our recent publication here. This work is supported by an NIH R01 Grant from NINDS.

Probing the motor system using Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

We use TMS to deliver pulses over primary motor cortex and we then record the evoked response in the muscles. When done during a task this provides high temporal resolution information about the activation and suppression of impending responses. Recently we developed a way of doing this in a real-time feedback loop, see here.

Electrocorticography studies of stopping action

With our colleagues at UT Houston Medical School we are studying epilepsy patients who have implanted intracranial electrodes. We thus acquire high spatiotemporal resolution information about different regions (and networks) of the brain We can also stimulate these electrodes during task performance, e.g. here and this news report. This work is supported by an NIH R01 grant from NIDA.

Response Control in Mice

Via a local collaboration with Hnasko lab at UCSD we are studying response control in mice. We take advantage of cutting edge tools in optogenetics, tracing and imaging to examine how the basal ganglia and cortex are engaged during simple tasks. This work is supported by an NIH R01 Grant from NINDS.

Human Cortex-Basal Ganglia Action Regulating Networks

We are participating in a multi-site UO1 Brain Initiative grant entitled: “Invasive Approach to Model Human Cortex-Basal Ganglia Action-Regulating Networks”. This involves simultaneous recording from cortex and basal ganglia in humans undergoing surgical procedures, and heralds a unique opportunity to learn about these circuits. For related ideas see here.