University of Cambridge > > Department of Psychiatry & CPFT Thursday Lunchtime Seminar Series > Translational Biomarkers of Cognitive Control and Reward Responsivity

Translational Biomarkers of Cognitive Control and Reward Responsivity

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Abstract: Electrophysiology is a direct measure of neuronal processes, and it is uniquely sensitive to canonical neural operations that underlie emergent psychological operations. These qualities make EEG well suited for the identification of aberrant neural mechanisms that underlie complicated disease states. This talk will review the qualities of two biomarkers of cognitive processes: 1) frontal midline theta as a marker of cognitive control, and 2) the event-related potential component known as the Reward Positivity (RewP) as a marker of reward value. While much is already known about frontal theta, the RewP is more of a mystery. This talk will present unpublished evidence from MEG source estimation that the RewP is generated by ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Moreover, it will be shown that the diminished RewP in major depression is due to hypoactivity in these areas, including subgenual cingulate. Recently developed mouse models of these signals will also be discussed. Together, these findings will motivate the use of EEG biomarkers for Computational Psychiatry, drug development, and brain stimulation.

Biography of speaker: Dr James Cavanagh is a cognitive neuroscientist who specializes in EEG assessment and computational modeling of frontal cortex functions. Dr Cavanagh is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of New Mexico, where he directs the Cognitive Rhythms and Computation Lab. Dr Cavanagh’s career goal has been to advance the understanding of frontal cortical functioning with methodological and theoretical advancements in cognitive electrophysiology. He describes this research program as ‘Oscillations, Computations and Implications’:

  • Oscillations: The brain processes information with oscillations of neuronal populations, which gate the timing, location, and intensity of neuronal calculations. Electrophysiology is used to measure these oscillations, particularly when frontal cortex utilizes control or reinforcement information to adjust behavior.
  • Computations: To transcend simple descriptions of empirical effects, computational models is applied which help to define theoretical perspectives, constrain interpretations, uncover latent effects, and make novel predictions.
  • Implications: These perspectives combine into a powerful approach for understanding brain function. This novel approach to Computational Psychiatry may reveal the manner of compromised fronto-striatal functioning in neurological and psychiatric disorders. The development of cross-species translational models based on common e-phys signatures aims to hasten these advancements.

This talk is part of the Department of Psychiatry & CPFT Thursday Lunchtime Seminar Series series.

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