Zeb Kurth-Nelson
University College London


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I am a Senior Research Associate affiliated with the Max Planck UCL Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research and the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging.

I'm interested in the content, form and dynamics of the neural representations used in human decision making, and their misfunction in psychiatric disorders.

For example, neural representations of objects are better described as dynamical trajectories than as static patterns. Using magnetoencephalography (MEG) and multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA), we recently found that the shape of these trajectories through time plays a key role in value-based decision making.
These methods also allow us to track representations that emerge spontaneously. The rat hippocampus imagines past and future locations in rapid sequences (sometimes called 'replay'), which link multiple events into coherent neural representations. We found that similar sequences appear in the human brain, in the context of a non-spatial task, suggesting they may be a ubiquitous mechanism.
The neural mechanics of decision making are also dynamic over longer time scales, changing with experience. The brain is capable of deploying sophisticated reasoning processes to make the best decisions. These processes are typically thought to fail under distraction, meaning people would fall back on simpler decision mechanisms. However, we recently observed that a training protocol can enable sophisticated reasoning to operate even under significant distraction.