Dr. Rebecca Lawson

Learning under uncertainty: computation, pharmacology, and neurodevelopment

Adaptive behaviour rests on the ability to build expectations of the environment and to respond flexibly when changes are perceived to occur. Seminal theoretical accounts suggest that the noradrenaline system is crucially involved in the ability to estimate change, and that differences in learning to build expectations might underlie some of the cardinal features of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism. In this talk I will first present a general Bayesian account of autism that rests upon differences in how sensory uncertainties are processed. I will then present a series of empirical studies using computational modelling and psychopharmacology to understand how we learn under uncertainty in neurotypical and autistic populations. The talk will conclude with some recent work from my lab investigating learning under uncertainty in infancy, to better understand the typical developmental trajectory of this fundamental ability.

Bio: Dr. Rebecca Lawson is an Assistant Professor and Wellcome Trust Henry Dale Fellow at the University of Cambridge. She is interested in how the brain represents and responds to uncertainty, and her lab uses computational models, psychopharmacology, and neuroimaging to investigate this fundamental process in health, development, and disorder.

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