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.
Date Position Institution name 2020 Research Associate University of Adelaide 2019 Research Fellow Wellbeing and Recovery Research Institute 2019 Adjunct Research Associate PsychMed 2016 Tutor University of Adelaide 2014 Lab Assistant University of Adelaide 2013 Research Assistant University of Adelaide
Awards and Achievements
Date Type Title Institution Name Country Amount 2013 Scholarship Undergraduate Research Scholarship University of Adelaide Australia —
Date Institution name Country Title 2016 - 2020 University of Adelaide Australia PhD in Medicine (Psychology) 2012 - 2015 University of Adelaide Australia Bachelor of Psychological Science (Hons, First Class)
Date Title Institution Country 2018 Investigating neural substrates of perception and cognition with large-scale data Allen Institute for Brain Science United States 2018 Computational Neuroscience Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience Berlin Germany
Year Citation 2019 Beu, N. D., Burns, N. R., & Baetu, I. (2019). Polymorphisms in dopaminergic genes predict proactive processes of response inhibition. European Journal of Neuroscience, 49(9), 1069-1209.
DOI Scopus3 WoS3 Europe PMC1
2018 Baetu, I., Pitcher, J., Cohen-Woods, S., Lancer, B., Beu, N., Foreman, L., . . . Burns, N. (2018). Polymorphisms that affect GABA neurotransmission predict processing of aversive prediction errors in humans. NeuroImage, 176, 176-192.
DOI Scopus3 WoS2
Year Citation 2018 Beu, N., Burns, N., & Baetu, I. (2018). Polymorphisms in dopaminergic genes predict proactive inhibition in a Go/No-Go task. Poster session presented at the meeting of Conference programme: 48th Behavior Genetics Annual Meeting 2018. Cambridge, USA: Behavior Genetics Association. 2018 Beu, N. D., Burns, N. R., & Baetu, I. (2018). Polymorphisms in dopaminergic genes predict proactive inhibition in a Go/No-Go task. Poster session presented at the meeting of Forum for European Neuroscience Societies Forum of Neuroscience. Berlin, Germany. 2017 Beu, N. D., Burns, N. R., & Baetu, I. (2017). Polymorphisms in dopaminergic genes predict proactive inhibition in a Go/No-Go task. Poster session presented at the meeting of Experimental Psychology Conference. Newcastle, Australia. 2016 Beu, N. D., Burns, N. R., & Baetu, I. (2016). tDCS differentially modulates response inhibition processes disturbed by disease. Poster session presented at the meeting of Florey Postgraduate Conference. Adelaide, Australia.
Individual Differences, Personality, and Assessment (2017 - 2020)
Learning and Behaviour (2016 - 2018)
Health and Lifespan Development Psychology (2016)
Doing Research in Psychology (2019)
Foundations of Perception and Cognition (2019)
Psychology 1A (2016 - 2020)
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
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
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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