Todd Braver

Professor of Psychological & Brain Sciences, Professor of Radiology, William R Stuckenberg Professor of Human Values and Moral Development

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    • 36605
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    1994 …2023

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    Research interests

    My research centers on how humans exert control over their thoughts and behaviors, a capability termed cognitive control. The concept of cognitive control is central to our notions of consciousness, agency, and will. Higher-level cognitive functions such as attention and short-term or working memory are thought to rely critically on control processes. Conversely, the loss of cognitive control is a major component of many neuropsychiatric diseases, such as schizophrenia. As such, I believe elucidating the mechanisms of cognitive control is a fundamental goal for psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy. The ultimate goal of my own research program is to contribute to our understanding of how cognitive control emerges in the brain, in terms of the interactions between neural processing elements, and without recourse to "homunculus"-type explanations. Because of this goal, my research approach is both integrative and inter-disciplinary, combining behavioral studies, computational modeling, and cognitive neuroscience methods.

    There are several major themes running through my research. A first theme is to determine the specialized functional contributions that different brain systems, such as the prefrontal cortex and midbrain dopamine system, make to cognitive control, and how these different systems might interact. A second theme is to explore how and why cognitive control functions break down in certain impaired populations, such as older adults and schizophrenia patients. A third theme is to demonstrate and understand the variability in cognitive control strategies that individuals adopt over time and across different task situations. A final theme is to explore individual variation in cognitive control function among healthy young adults, and how these individual differences might interact with putatively “non-cognitive” factors such as emotional states, motivation, and personality.

    Available to Mentor:

    • PhD/MSTP Students

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