Research Areas

The lab uses computational and neuroscientific methods to unravel the neurobiological mechanisms underlying learning in childhood and adolescence with a particular focus on neurodevelopmental disorders, especially Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

In close collaborations with researchers at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, we are expanding conceptual and computational frameworks. We are collaborating with clinicians and researchers at Yale University to assess the usefulness of our learning framework in predicting treatment success for children with an ASD diagnosis.

Our work is supported by the Simons Foundation for Autism Research (SAFARI).

Learning to predict others across development

Social and nonsocial learning across developmental stages and levels of social functioning.

We are probing how social and non-social learning strategies differ in children and adolescents. An example of social learning is learning about other people’s preferences.

For example: what information are we using to predict whether someone likes chocolate? Are we relying on our own preference or on knowledge about our peer group? How are we integrating new information into this framework?

We are using a computational modeling approach to describe learning and test whether these models differentiate between children with and without autism. We are also investigating how these learning models are encoded in brain signal with neuroimaging techniques.

Social learning models as predictors of cooperation, psychopathology and treatment response

Can social learning predict social functioning of people in real life as well as treatment outcomes for people with social deficits?

These projects investigate whether comprehensive neuro-cognitive models of learning can successfully predict social interaction, for instance people’s cooperation strategies. We are also investigating whether these models predict learning in real life settings, such as in treatment settings.

The long-term goal of this research is to use this neuro-cognitive approach to inform, refine, and individualize diagnosis, education, and treatment of youth with neurodevelopmental disorders.



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