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Fabian Grabenhorst


Associate Professor of Experimental Psychology

  • Wellcome Trust Sir Henry Dale Fellow
  • Fellow and Tutor in Experimental Psychology at Jesus College

Neural mechanisms of reward, economic decisions, and social behaviour

My work focuses on the brain's reward system, and how this system contributes to economic decision-making and social behaviour. Why do we like foods high in sugar and fat, and sometimes struggle to control their intake? How do our decisions and thoughts about our social partners emerge from neural activity patterns in particular brain structures?

To address these questions, my group uses single-neuron recordings and neuroimaging to investigate the activity of neural reward structures in controlled behavioural experiments. By studying their functions in reward, decisions, and social behaviour, we aim to better understand how these brain systems can dysfunction in human diseases.

Our recent work identified nutrients and sensory food qualities, including a food’s viscosity and sliding friction, as key reward properties that shape economic food preferences. We now study how neurons in the amygdala—a major structure of the brain’s reward system—assign values to these reward components and process them into decisions.

In a separate approach, we found that neurons in the amygdala learn to predict the choices of social partners by spontaneously simulating a partner’s decision processes.

Key publications

Recent publications

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