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Eleanor Holton


DPhil Candidate

Neural mechanisms of decision making

I'm a PhD student supervised by Nils Kolling, Jill O'Reilly, and Chris Summerfield.

Whether it be catching prey or making dinner, rewards in natural environments take time to pursue. This requires planning into the future, setting goals, and flexibly switching between different strategies when needed. Using computational models alongside fMRI and MEG imaging techniques, I look at how humans plan and make decisions in temporally extended environments. In particular, I’m interested in the role of the human frontal lobes in prospective value-based decision-making and goal maintenance. 

My work explores the neural mechanisms by which humans pursue goals and suppress alternative courses of action, versus deciding to abandon goals. In addition, I'm interested in how individuals differ in this tendency to commit to goals, which may have relevance for our understanding of various psychiatric disorders such as OCD, apathy, and depression. In future projects I will use MEG to investigate the moment-by-moment brain activity responsible for tracking changing rewards, and using this information to make predictions about the future. Finally, I am also interested in how humans weigh up different types of value across time, such as the value of information or increased agency.

My PhD is funded by the Wellcome Trust as part of the 1+3 Doctoral Programme in Neuroscience.