15 March 2023: Navigating our uncertain social worlds

Oriel FeldmanHall
Department of Department of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences
Brown University

Interacting with others is one of the most inherently uncertain acts we embark on. There are a multitude of unknowns, including how to express ourselves, who to confide in, or whether to engage in risky behavior with our peers. All this uncertainty makes successfully navigating the social world a tremendous challenge. Combining behavioral and neuroscientific methods, we explore the social and emotional factors that shape and ultimately guide how humans learn to make adaptive decisions amongst this great uncertainty. In particular, we borrow models from the animal learning literature, and methods from computational neuroscience and machine learning, to examine how humans experience, process, and resolve this uncertainty to make more adaptive decisions.  

View a recording of this session here.

1 March 2023: Motivation for emotional pleasure and pain in psychopathology

Yael Milgram
Department of Psychology
Harvard University

Emotion regulation deficits contribute to many mental health disorders. Most research sought to understand these deficits by investigating how people regulate emotions – specifically, which emotion regulation strategies people use and how effectively they implement them. However, emotion regulation strategies are used at the service of attaining desired emotional states. Therefore, people who struggle with psychopathology might differ not only in the strategies they use, but also in the emotional states they desire. In this talk, I will present evidence suggesting that some clinical populations differ from non-clinical populations in the degree to which they are motivated to experience painful and pleasant emotions, with an emphasis on Major Depressive Disorder. I will then present studies testing the implications of these differences for the use of emotion regulation strategies, emotional experiences, and mental health. Finally, I will offer a new perspective for understanding these findings, according to which motivation to experience painful emotions in psychopathology might reflect a form of emotional self-harm.

View a recording of this session here.

15 February 2023: Computational Models of Compulsivity

Frederike Petzschner
Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior
Brown University

OCD has been conceptualized as a disorder arising from dysfunctional beliefs, such as overestimating threads or pathological doubts. Yet, how these beliefs lead to compulsions and obsessions remains unclear. Here, we develop a computational model to examine the specific beliefs that trigger and sustain compulsive behavior in a simple handwashing scenario. Our results demonstrate that a single belief disturbance – a lack of trust in one’s avoidance action– can trigger and maintain compulsions and is directly linked to compulsion severity. This distrust can further explain a number of seemingly unrelated phenomena in OCD including the role of not-just-right feelings, intolerance to uncertainty, overestimation of threat or perfectionisms, and deficits in reversal and state learning. In conclusion, our findings shed new light on the underlying beliefs that drive compulsive behavior in OCD, providing a step forward in building a more comprehensive theory of this complex condition.

View a recording of this session here.

1 February 2023: Workshop on Psychopathology Diagnosis

Gal Shoval
Princeton Neuroscience Institute
Princeton University

Gal Shoval, the clinical supervisor of the CCNP, will present the principles of diagnostic procedures of psychopathology and discuss different challenges in making diagnosis in therapy and research. The participants are welcome to prepare ahead and share some of their own concerns and prior experience for a vigorous discussion.

View a recording of this session here.