Research

“How can the coordinated activity of brain cells (neurons) support cognitive functions such as memory, inference and planning that are central to our mental lives?

My research aims to shed light on these questions, using a wide variety of techniques, including functional brain imaging (e.g. fMRI, MEG, PET), pharmacological manipulations (drug studies), and diverse quantitative analysis tools (computational modelling of human behaviour (e.g. reinforcement learning), supervised/unsupervised machine learning algorithms (e.g. multivariate decoding, clustering), and natural language processing (NLP)).

I believe that an improved understanding of brain function, and how it relates to cognition, will help us treat a wide variety of neuropsychiatric disorders.

My work has been funded and recognised by competitive fellowships from a number of major UK funding bodies, including Wellcome Trust, Medical Research Council (MRC), and National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

I currently hold appointments at University College London (Max Planck UCL Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing), King’s College London (Institute of Psychiatry Psychology & Neuroscience), and the NHS (Maudsley Hospital).

Click here for a full list of publications.


Cognitive and neural map representations in psychosis

My current research investigates how the brain learns and represents concepts and events in a structured manner (in so-called ‘cognitive maps’), and how this process may go awry in psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia. I focus in particular on the role of spontaneous memory reactivations (replay) during periods of rest, detected using magnetoencephalography.

This research is being conducted at the Max Planck UCL Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing, part of the Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging. My primary supervisors are Professor Ray Dolan FRS (UCL), and Dr Zeb Kurth-Nelson (Deepmind). I am funded by the Wellcome Trust.


Dopamine, brain imaging and psychosis

The majority of my previous research has focussed on how the neurotransmitter dopamine modulates the function of brain circuits involved in cognition and memory, and how this might help us understand and treat psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia.

Access peer-reviewed scientific articles here.

I conducted this work while a Clinical Research Fellow in Psychiatry at Imperial College London and King’s College London, in the research lab of Professor Oliver Howes.


Here is a small selection of this work:

The role of brain dopamine in updating our beliefs following new evidence
(a) Neural activation in dopamine-rich brain regions at at timepoints when participants updated their beliefs (fMRI). (b) Activity in these brain regions relates to a measure of dopamine receptor density measured with [PHNO] PET. Original article.

The role of brain dopamine in generation of psychotic symptoms (e.g. delusions)
Increased dopamine synthesis capacity in bipolar affective disorder (with psychotic symptoms), measured with [FDOPA] PET. Original article.

Dopamine and memory function
We find a close relationship between brain dopamine levels and brain regions which are activated (red) and de-activated (blue) during a memory task (fMRI). Original article.

Dopamine-associated functional brain networks
(ii) Network associated with dopamine synthesis capacity, [FDOPA] PET. (iii) Network associated with amphetamine-induced dopamine release capacity [PHNO] PET. Original article.

Psychedelics

I am fascinated by the relationship between brain and mind, and in particular in the brain-basis of consciousness. The profound alterations in consciousness caused by psychedelic drugs such as LSD, DMT and psilocybin represent a powerful means of studying this relationship.

Here are some of my research papers on psychedelics, particularly focussing on how they perturb the experience of ‘self’. This research was done in collaboration with Dr Robin Carhart Harris and colleagues at the Imperial College Centre for Psychedelic Research.

Access peer-reviewed scientific articles here.

Here is a PDF of the Ego Dissolution Inventory (EDI) questionnaire from the Frontiers in Neuroscience paper.

Here’s a talk I gave on this topic at the ICPR in 2016.