The focus of my research is to look at how decisions are made in the brain. We’re working around a specific theory that has been implemented as a computational model. This simulates how a collection of brain regions – known as the basal ganglia – operate under certain conditions, under the influence of the neurotransmitter dopamine. A novel experimental task has been devised to evoke similar conditions in human subjects. Using fMRI, we will attempt to determine how accurate the model is at predicting the brain’s activity, and use this to improve the model. After this first phase, we will compare the activity of a normal brain to that of someone with schizophrenia. A definitive physical defect has yet to be found for this debilitating and relatively common disease, though the basal ganglia have been implicated. The final phase will extend this further by looking at how dopamine affects decision making. The action of dopamine is known to be altered in schizophrenia, though this remains poorly understood. We hope to shed some light on what may be going wrong, which is of particular relevance to future drug development. Potential impact: To further explore the physical and functional defects of schizophrenia, with a view to determining the role dopamine has to play in both the nature and treatment of the disease.
Related Publications and Presentations
- Liana Romaniuk, David Willshaw, and Stephen Lawrie, “Dynamical glutamatergic cortical control of dopamine-mediated action selection suggests medication effects for schizophrenia: A computational approach”, International Congress on Schizophrenia Research, Colorado Springs, USA, 2007.
- Liana Romaniuk, Stephen Lawrie, and “Decisions decisions decisions: Functional evidence for action selection within the basal ganglia”, Organisation for Human Brain Mapping, 13th Annual Meeting, Chicago, USA, 2007.
- Liana Romaniuk, Stephen Lawrie, and “Ambiguity in Motor Selection: An fMRI Test of Appropriate Actions”, Organisation for Human Brain Mapping, 12th Annual meeting, Florence, Italy, 2006.
- Liana Romaniuk, Stephen Lawrie, and “A competitive action selection task for the interrogation of basal ganglia activity: a pilot study”, Neuroscience Day, Edinburgh, 2006.