In research with animals, my students and I use rats to study the role played by various neurotransmitters, especially dopamine, in reward-related incentive learning.
My primary research interests are in the perception, exploration and retention of information from complex, natural stimuli (i.e., real-world scenes).
In our laboratory we are interested in the perceptual, cognitive, and emotional processes involved in music appreciation and understanding. Recent work has focused on individual differences in musical and prosodic skills and sensitivities. We study such topics as absolute pitch, tone deafness, effects of music lessons on nonmusical cognitive skills, musical dyslexia, aging and music, amusia following stroke, and sparing of musical memories in Alzheimer's Disease.
Neural and synaptic plasticity, learning and memory, development, long-term potentiation, neurotransmitters, amygdala, fear.
The aim of research in the Cognition and Action Lab is to understand the cognitive and computational processes underlying movement control and learning.
The aim of research in the Memory, Action and Perception laboratory (MAPlab) is to understand the human cognitive and neural bases of this transformation, in general, and how a variety of processes (e.g., decision-making, working memory, perception and learning) are used to guide the selection and control of our actions, in particular.
My research is concerned with the neural circuits responsible for mediating fear as a useful adaptation, as well as with how altered brain function might promote maladaptive levels of fear.
My general research interest is the understanding of the processes of speech production and speech perception.
My research is directed towards understanding the neural and psychological interface between motivation and cognition,- or how rewarding stimuli influence learning.
I research the consequences of bringing memories to life. To this end, my studies frequently incorporate monitoring of human brain activity with fMRI. Using computational methods, I track neural evidence of memory reactivation within participants’ brains, which I relate to other processes such as memory formation, forgetting, planning for the future, and perception.
Human cognition is not always directly related to the events taking place in the here and now and understanding the neural basis behind the thoughts and feelings that occupy our daily lives is one of the most important questions facing cognitive neuroscience. To address this important question Professor Smallwood’s work uses state-of-the-art techniques for brain analysis as well as novel methods for assessing both patterns of ongoing thought, and task driven behaviour. Ongoing work focuses on the relationship between different patterns of ongoing experience and both positive and negative features of health and well being and how the structure of these complex patterns of thought are constrained by the organisation of the structure of the cortex.
Our lab is interested in the processes that drive variance in human decision-making across people, context and time. To address these questions, I draw on methods and insights from different disciplines, including psychology, neuroscience (especially fMRI), computational modelling (e.g. multivariate decoding techniques of brain data or drift-diffusion models), and behavioral economics (in a newly emerging field called neuroeconomics).
Our research program focuses on social neuroendocrinology, feminist and queer science, sex research, and gender/sex and sexual diversity. Our work provides innovative paradigms, models, and theories for incorporating both evolution and social construction. To do so, we use diverse interdisciplinary methods that include experiments, correlational analyses, longitudinal designs, thematic coding, and more. We see our research as providing ways to do socially situated science that are biologically expansive (not reductionist), biolegible (i.e., to other bioscientists), and informed by lived experiences (critically reflective narratives of the minoritized and marginalized).
My research focuses on understanding how learning and experience can fundamentally reshape the way we represent information in memory, as well as how our representational spaces are actively reorganized to facilitate retrieval from memory. To address these questions, I have studied the costs of divided attention, the benefits of active learning tasks (e.g. drawing, motor enactment), and the changes in patterns of brain activity elicited by regularities in our environment. In other work, I have explored the experience of mind-wandering, a commonly experienced phenomenon where our thoughts drift away from what we are currently doing and toward internal thoughts and concerns. Specifically, I am interested in how episodes of mind wandering impact learning and performance, and how mind wandering might be reduced in educational settings. I use behavioural experiments, computational tools, and functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate these and related questions, and wherever possible, I conduct experiments that relate the laboratory to the real-world (e.g. long-term studies in actual university classrooms).
Research is currently focused on training of attentional control, how attentional control shapes perceptual experience, working memory and attentional control, attention control in a virtual reality environment, and cortical mechanisms underlying attentional control.