Neural Mechanisms of Motivation and Cognitive Control

When we set a challenging or or long-term goal for ourselves, it is unequivocal that motivation is required to help attain those goals. How is it that we are able to monitor and flexibly direct and update our actions to attain specific goals or outcomes? How do individuals encode and integrate subjective motivational values to modulate task goals and decision-making? I am especially interested in the neuromodulatory mechanisms (e.g., dopaminergic, serotonergic) that underlie how appetitive and aversive motivational processes interact with cognitive control and effort to influence goal-directed behavior. To accomplish this goal, I am applying multi-modal imaging techniques (e.g., PET, fMRI, pharmacology) to investigate how neuromodulatory systems mediate relationships between neural activations and motivated behaviors.

Motivation and Cognition Interactions Across the Lifespan

An orthogonal line of research questions relate to understanding how these motivation-cognition interactions are impacted by healthy human aging. It is well know that decision-making processes change across the human lifespan, but the how these cognitive, affective, and motivational processes interact remains an open question. I am interested in understanding how aging and development influences the interaction of motivation and cognition. To investigate these questions, I am utilizing innovative task paradigms to examines motivation and cognition in older adults and adolescents. My hope is that such work will provide deeper insight into how motivation-cognition interactions change across the lifespan.
Check out the Growing Up in Aging Neuroscience Webinar Series!

Computational Models of Motivation and Cognitive Control

As it is becoming evident that motivational and higher-order cognitive behaviors are quite intricate and complex, there is an increased need for more nuanced computational approaches towards understanding the biological bases of motivation-cognition interactions. To this end, I aim to use multivariate approaches (i.e., MVPA, RSA), reinforcement learning, and drift diffusion modeling to inform mechanisms that underlie motivation and cognitive control. My hope is that such modeling approaches will offer greater precision into how these interactions manifest in behavior and the brain.

Investigating Motivational and Cognitive Deficits in Clinical Affective Disorders

Clinical affective disorders (e.g., depression, anxiety) are commonly characterized by pervasive disruptions in effortful mental pursuit, as well as aberrant function of affective/motivational brain networks. A key facet of our mechanistic studies of motivation and cognition (i.e., control, effort) is that our integrative approaches can facilitate greater understanding of how processes are such interactions are dysregulated in psychopathology.