Research interests#

uncertainty neuroimaging modelling anxiety mental health ageing generalisation learning and choice

Projects and areas of interest#

Anxiety, uncertainty and structure learning of aversive environments#

modelling anxiety learning and choice uncertainty
In this project we investigate how people varying in trait anxiety learn and how they represent aversive environments. We use a task characterised by alternating periods of relative safety and threat. To make predictions about probability of receiving shock on the next trial, one can either keep track of current shock probability in a trial-by-trial manner (using reinforcement learning-like mechanism), or, alternatively, one can learn that there are regular changes in shock probabilities and leverage this information to make more accurate predictions. Using computational models to characterise the two processes, we found that people higher in trait anxiety have a tendency to extract such latent structures. While this means that high trait anxious participants are better at following the experimental contingencies, it might also mean that they are more likely to experience return-of-fear phenomena such as spontaneous recovery or reinstatement. Zika, Wiech, Reinecke, Browning and Schuck, 2023, Nature Comms

Neural representation of uncertainty#

modelling learning and choice uncertainty
In this project we ask the question how does the orbitofrontal cortext integrate contextual information into decisions when both current context and sensory input are uncertain. To achieve this goal we use partially observable Markov decision process model together with functional multivariate MRI. This project is funded by the German Science Foundation (DFG)

The effect of angiotensin-II receptor blockade on aversive learning: randomised controlled trial#

modelling learning and choice
The commonly prescribed blood pressure medication losartan (angiotensin-II receptor blocker) has recently been linked to reduction in fear learning, including lower chance of developing PTSD in war veterans. Here, we use double-blind design and probabilistic aversive learning task over three sessions to investigate the role of losartan in aversive learning. Zika, Appel, Klinge, Shkreli, Browning and Reinecket, 2024, Biological Psychiatry

Longitudinal study on the impact of anxiety and depression on worry and avoidance throughout the COVID-19 pandemic#

anxiety mental health
How do trait anxiety and depression impact attitudes, behaviours and worries about changing real-world threat? Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, we surveyed large pool of participants across 20 sessions enquiring about their worries, behaviours and attitudes. At the same time, we collected number of objective indicators such as number of cases and deaths in the area. In this project we try to relate the objective threat with subjective experinces, and how these are influenced by individual differences.


People Claire Gillan, Nico Schuck

Aversive generalisation, representation and replay#

generalisation modelling anxiety uncertainty
In this project we draw on previous modelling and experimental work to delinate the impact of perceptual and outcome uncertainty on aversive generalisation. This project is lead by Luianta Verra as part of her PhD.


People Luianta Verra, Nico Schuck Influences/inspirations Norbury et al., Lee et al.

Context similarity and rule generalisation in school-aged children#

generalisation modelling
How does the similarity of learning and generalisation contexts impact rule generalisation in 6-15 y.o. children? This project is funded by The Jacobs Foundation.

Foraging and eating disorders#

modelling mental health learning and choice
Upcoming project in which we will investigate the impact of eating attitudes on foraging decisions.


People Sam Hall-McMaster