Transforming the understanding and treatment of mental illness through research
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 Principal Investigators

Bruno Averbeck, Ph.D.
Bruno Averbeck Photo Dr. Averbeck attained a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Minnesota in 1994. After working 3 years in industry, Dr. Averbeck returned to the University of Minnesota and completed a Ph.D. in Neuroscience in 2001, working in the lab of Dr. Apostolos Georgopoulos. His thesis was titled, "Neural Mechanisms of Copying Geometrical Shapes". Following his thesis work, Dr. Averbeck carried out post-doctoral studies at the University of Rochester with Dr. Daeyeol Lee. During this period he studied neural mechanisms underlying sequential learning, coding of vocalizations and population coding. In 2006 Dr. Averbeck moved to University College London as a senior Lecturer, where he began experiments looking at the role of frontal-striatal circuits in learning, combining neurophysiology, brain imaging and patient studies. In 2009, Dr. Averbeck moved to the NIMH and established the Unit on Learning and Decision Making in the Laboratory of Neuropsychology.
Research Interests
The work in Dr. Averbeck's group focuses on understanding the role of frontal-striatal circuits, and particularly the role of dopamine in these circuits, on learning and the representation of beliefs. The lab pursues these questions by establishing links between network dynamics at the level of neuronal ensembles and behaviour. The overall strategy of the work in the lab is to carry out experiments in patient groups that have disordered dopamine signalling, including patients with schizophrenia and patients with Parkinson's disease. Specific behaviors that are affected in the patient groups can then be implemented in primate models, where in-vivo experiments allow detailed examination of mechanism. For example, recent work has examined the possibility that delusions in schizophrenia are driven by a change in the way evidence is gathered to support beliefs about the state of the world. Work by our group and others has shown that patients with schizophrenia make decisions after gathering less evidence than control groups. Recent work in the lab has examined this behavior in healthy human subjects using functional neuroimaging, and identified a network of areas that are involved in the task, including the intraparietal sulcus, the insula and the ventral striatum. Subsequent experiments in monkeys will follow up these findings by examining the effects of pharmacological manipulations which are thought to model psychosis, on behavior and neural ensemble activity within the brain areas uncovered by the functional imaging.
Representative Selected Recent Publications:
  • Djamshidian, A., O’Sullivan, S.S., Doherty, K., Lees, A.J., and Averbeck, B. B.: Altruistic punishment inpatients with Parkinson’s disease with and without impulsive behavior. Neuropsychologia, 49:103-107, 2011. (View)
  • Evans, S., Fleming, S.F., Dolan, R., and Averbeck, B.B.: Effects of emotional preferences on value-based decision making are mediated by mentalizing not reward networks. J Cog Neuro, Sep;23(9):2197-210, (View)
  • Averbeck, B. B., Evans, S., Chouhan, V., Bristow, E., and Shergill, S. S.: Probabilistic learning and inference in schizophrenia, Schizophrenia Research, Apr;127(1-3):115-22, 2011. (View)
  • Evans, S. Shergill, S.S. and Averbeck, B. B.: Oxytocin decreases aversion to angry faces in a decision making task. Neuropsychopharmacology, 35:2502-2509, 2010. (View)
  • Djamshidian, A., Jha, A., OíSullivan, S. S., Silveira-Moriyama, L., Jacobson, C., Brown, P., Lees, A. and Averbeck, B. B.: Risk and learning in impulsive and non-impulsive patients with Parkinsonís disease. Movement Disorders, 25:2203-2210, 2010. (View)

Laboratory of Neuropsychology NIMH
Building 49, Room 1B80
49 Convent Drive, MSC 4415
Bethesda, MD 20892-4415
Phone: 301-594-1126
Email Dr. Averbeck
Fax: 301-402-0046
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This page was last updated September 13, 2012.

  The Division of Intramural Research Programs is within the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) which is a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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