I am interested in how the the locus coeruleus / noradrenergic system (LC/NE) is involved in the modulation of cognitive functions, including decision making, utility assessment, and adaptive behaviour. I would in particular like to elucidate the potential role of this neuromodulatory system in the neurodegenerative processes underlying healthy aging and Alzheimer's-type dementia.
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I have a number of lines of research, and am always interested in hearing from prospective students about their research ideas or questions. These research topics are described below. Bear in mind that there is a lot of overlap between each topic, so potential projects will likely involve parts of each (for example, investigating the influence of neuromodulation in age-related cognitive decline). Feel free to contact me for more details, or check out my personal website: http://andrew.modelgui.org
Neuromodulation of Cognition
My current research seeks to elucidate the role of the neuromodulator norepinephrine in the control of high-level cognitive processes such as decision making, sequential reinforcement learning, vigilance, and adaptation to changing environments. I have developed a realistic 3D highway driving simulator in which participants make decisions about traffic situations of varying difficulty. At the same time, I measure pupil diameter (a proxy measure for norepinephrine) and brain activity, using EEG. Projects in this topic would include designing experiments, collecting experimental data, and analyzing behavioural, pupillometry, and EEG results.
I am interested using neuroimaging methods, including MRI, EEG, and MEG, to estimate how the human brain is connected, and how its connectivity changes under specific conditions or clinical disorders. In particular, my research focuses on combining information from many types of brain imaging, in order to get a picture of how brain structure and function coordinate to produce cognition. Projects in this topic would involve working with large neuroimaging datasets, using Python to process and analyze these datasets, and applying connectivity analysis software to experimental data.
As our brains age, they begin to degenerate. For example, over 90% of people over the age of 60 have some degeneration of the brain's white matter (axonal wiring). Similarly, close to 30% of the world population over age 85 have some form of dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease. A major focus of my research is to better understand how the brain changes earlier in life, and whether these changes can be used to predict whether a person will go on to develop Alzheimer's or other neurodegenerative disease. Knowledge of this process can be very informative about how to prevent or stave off its effects later in life. Projects in this topic would include analyzing public databases of elderly cohorts, as well as people with genetic predisposition to Alzheimer's disease.