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For thoughts on science, regular updates, and other bits and bobs follow me on Twitter: @LauraGrimaNeuro

Laura Grima

BSc (Hons), MSc

Cognitive Neurology (Husain Lab) & Neurochemistry, Action and Control (Walton Lab)

Investigating the role of mesolimbic dopamine in goal-directed behaviour and decision-making

Research Interests

My research looks at the role of mesolimbic dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain, in goal-directed behaviour. It is widely accepted that the activity of dopamine neurons in the midbrain, and subsequent release of dopamine in areas such as the nucleus accumbens, quantitatively encodes a 'reward prediction error' - the difference between how much reward was expected and how much reward was actually received. 

However, there is also evidence that this same dopamine signal might also be encoding the movement required to obtain reward. 

Using a paradigm where animals have to either make OR withhold action to garner reward, I have been investigating the relationship between action and mesolimbic dopamine release. I have been doing this using various methods, including fast-scan cyclic voltammetry (FCV), systemic and local pharmacology, and behaviour. 

My other interests include the role of dopamine in decision-making, particularly in foraging scenarios- when making the decision between continuing to commit to one course of action versus moving onto something else for reward. I also hope to translate some of my findings to humans, particularly clinical populations where normal dopamine function is disrupted. 

This research is jointly funded by the ESRC and St. John's College, Oxford, and is supervised by Prof. Masud Husain and Dr. Mark Walton. After a research stay of 3 months in 2016 as a Visiting Scientist, I also have an ongoing collaboration with Dr. Joe Paton's lab at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown. 

Key publications

Recent publications

More publications

Action initiation shapes mesolimbic dopamine encoding of future rewards

This is a video abstract of our paper that came out in January, 2016. We show that whether one has to make or withhold movement to garner reward has an influence on dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens, above and beyond the processing of reward itself. This suggests that dopamine in this area may be aiding initiation of appropriate reward-oriented actions.


I completed my undergraduate degree in Psychology at Royal Holloway, University of London, with a final year project in vision neuroscience, looking at spatial specificity in second-order adaptation to understand where in the brain such second-order stimuli are processed. Alongside my undergraduate degree, I also completed a 12 month clinical neuroscience internship at the Anna Freud Centre, and held a Research Assistant post in a language cognition lab.

Following this, I undertook a Master's degree in Psychological Research at Oxford in the Husain Lab, supervised by Prof. Husain and Dr. Apps. My project investigated the role of cognitive effort discounting and sensitivity to risk in subjective reward valuation, using a behavioural decision-making task.