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Simone Ferrari-Toniolo

BBSRC Discovery Fellow

Neuronal mechanisms of economic and social decisions


How do individual neurons drive complex behaviour? My work investigates this fundamental question by relating the activity of neurons to rigorously quantified aspects of individual and social behaviour.

My current research investigates the neuronal underpinnings of social learning and interaction. Through neurophysiology (large-scale neuronal recordings) and brain stimulation techniques (transcranial ultrasound), I aim to uncover the flow of neuronal information across brain areas and its impact on behaviour. My focus is on brain regions involved in economic decisions and social cognition, including prefrontal cortex, amygdala and dopaminergic midbrain.

A distinctive aspect of my work is the application of rigorous mathematical models derived from the economic theory. These models help characterise choice behaviour and social learning, providing a precise framework for understanding how we make decisions and learn from one another.


I completed a Master Degree in Physics specialising in electronics and cybernetics, followed by a PhD in Neurophysiology studying cortical control of movement and social interaction (University of Rome, Italy)

Before moving to Oxford, I worked as a postdoctoral researcher in Wolfram Schultz's laboratory in Cambridge (UK), investigating reward and economic decisions in the primate brain.