We're delighted to announce that Fabian Grabenhorst, Associate Professor of Experimental Psychology (Jesus), has now started in the Department.
Fabian investigates the neural processing of rewards, using single-neuron recordings and functional neuroimaging. He has a particular interest in the amygdala, an intricate cell complex in the temporal lobe that is important not only in emotion but also in economic decision-making and even in sophisticated social cognition. When we observe and interact with our social partners, our amygdala apparently learns to simulate our partners’ decision processes (doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2019.02.042).
Listening to the amygdala’s neurons, his group’s recent work explored the behavioural and neuronal principles underlying food reward, including how the value of food derives from its sugar and fat content, and associated mechanical food-texture properties (doi: 10.1073/pnas.2101954118). By challenging reward neurons with ecologically important food choices and social interactions, Fabian aims to discover unknown principles-of-function engrained in these brain systems. What is the common, unifying computation in the amygdala’s circuits that explains its diverse roles in reward, decisions, and social behaviours? Fabian hopes that investigating neural reward functions will also help identify vulnerabilities for reward dysfunctions in conditions affecting well-being and mental health.
Returning to Experimental Psychology feels a bit like coming home. I obtained my DPhil here and was fortunate to get to know and learn from many of EP’s distinguished members (often over Wednesday coffees). The Department has such a rich tradition in my field. After spending the last decade in a neurophysiology lab in Cambridge, I now hope to add my own flavour and discover something exciting. When I’m not in the lab, I enjoy wine, workouts, listening to German art songs, and the peace of the countryside.