Nathan Beu

Nathan Beu

School of Psychology

Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

I investigate the neurobiological substrate of the mechanisms involved in higher-order cognition, intelligence, and motor control (particularly the neurogenetics and frontal cortico-basal ganglia pathways). To do this, I test theoretical neural networks that might support these functions using converging evidence from traditional individual differences methods, computational and mathematical models, genotyping, EEG, neurostimulation techniques, and behavioural testing. I take a model-based systems approach to this line of investigation by attempting to link neural, computational, and behavioural measures to yield causal accounts of various cognitive processes.

The processes that I target are those affected by psychiatric dysfunction or pathological degeneration, such as response inhibition and cognitive control, by concentrating on reaction time and how it varies and fluctuates under different conditions, circumstances, and cognitive demands. Using this approach, dysfunction, disease, and degeneration can plausibly be detected using cognitive and behavioural assessments many years before symptoms manifest.

In addition to this, I am interested in identifying whether these mechanisms can be separated into discrete processes and how they concatenate, as well as developing, programming, and validating novel state-of-the-art tasks that allow us to measure these processes individually.

More broadly, my work has four themes: (1) the psychonomics and psychometrics of the individual differences in intelligence and various cognitive processes; (2) the underlying philosophies of experimental cognitive science and statistical inference, and the social impacts, influences, and implications of such work; (3) investigating potential targets for pharmaceutical, nutritional, technological, psychological, and physical interventions to enhance cognitive and motor functions in healthy individuals, and to offset the decline associated with disease states and ageing; and, (4) constructing formal models of pathology based on behavioural and cognitive assessment to improve the precision of medical diagnostics.

In the Cognitive Neural Sciences Lab with Dr Irina Baetu, Prof Nicholas Burns, Lauren Heidenreich, Salvatore Russo, and Brittany Child, we research in cognition and emotion and their neural underpinnings. The lab investigates how we learn from our experiences and how this learning guides our choices, as well as how we are able to exert cognitive control. These abilities are critical to our everyday functioning since making optimal decisions based on past experience ensures that we maximise positive outcomes and minimise aversive consequences. We study how these abilities change during ageing and in Parkinson’s disease. We are especially interested in discovering genetic variation that may help us preserve these abilities, as this might help the development of new preventative measures and treatments for cognitive decline. To do this, we are particularly interested in computational modelling and the neurogenetics of the basal ganglia.

We collaborate with:
Dr Lyndsey Collins-Praino
A/Prof Ahmed Moustafa
A/Prof Sarah Cohen-Woods
Dr Oren Griffiths

Level 3

Individual Differences, Personality, and Assessment (2017 - 2020)
Learning and Behaviour (2016 - 2018)
Health and Lifespan Development Psychology (2016)

Level 2

Doing Research in Psychology (2019)
Foundations of Perception and Cognition (2019)

Level 1

Psychology 1A (2016 - 2020)

  • Committee Memberships

    Date Role Committee Institution Country
    2017 - 2019 Director Adelaide Postgraduate Student Association University of Adelaide Australia
    2017 - 2019 Board Member Health Sciences Postgraduate Association University of Adelaide Australia
    2015 - 2019 Representative School Committee University of Adelaide Australia
  • Memberships

    Date Role Membership Country
    2018 - ongoing Member Behavior Genetics Association United States
    2017 - ongoing Member Australasian Cognitive Neuroscience Society Australia
    2017 - ongoing Co-Chair Brain and Cognition Group Australia
    2017 - ongoing Member EEG Club Australia
  • Presentation

    Date Topic Presented at Institution Country
    2018 - 2018 Age moderates the genetic effect of why we make simple errors and how we correct them The Laboratory of Neural Computation and Cognition Carney Institute for Brain Science, Brown University United States
    2018 - 2018 Limitations and new directions for investigating response inhibition The Laboratory of Neural Computation and Cognition Carney Institute for Brain Science, Brown University United States

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