Professor of Cognitive Neuropsychology, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences
My research interests concern selection and control of action, co-ordination of goal-directed action.
Human behaviour is highly flexible and in any given situation there may be a number of actions we might pursue. Selecting one action may often require that we suppress competing responses and this maybe particularly difficult when the alternative responses are habitual or strongly reflexive.
I am interested in understanding how behaviour is regulated, particularly the control mechanisms involved in goal directed behaviour, and understanding how these mechanisms are affected by neuropsychiatric disorders. I have explored this issue using behavioural, electrophysiologicaland functional brain imaging measures using a wide range of behaviouraltasks: from very cognitive tasks (e.g. shifting between evaluating whether a letter is a vowel/consonant or is written in upper or lower case script) to more motoric tasks (e.g. shifting between responding immediately or delaying a response.
Recently I have investigated mechanisms of behavioural regulation in Tourette syndrome: using this disorder as a model for understanding the development of cognitive control more generally. Over the course of adolescence most individuals with Tourette syndrome will show a reduction in their tics(unwanted movements), presumably as a consequence of learning to suppress their tics.
We have demonstrated that the brain networks activated during tic suppression are also implicated in the control of goal directed action. With colleagues in the IoN I have shown cognitive control is actually enhanced in children with Tourette syndrome relative to their age matched controls. We are currently investigating the neural basis of this finding and plan to examine the contribution of social context to the development of control mechanisms.
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