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Cambridge Babylab



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Baby PaL

We are interested in exploring how the infant brain learns to build associations between sounds and pictures. We think this process may be disrupted in some developmental disorders, but first it’s important to understand how this learning occurs in typical development.

Lab Members Bio:

Dr Rebecca Lawson: Becky is a Lecturer (Associate Professor) in the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Cambridge and an affiliate researcher at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit. She is also Royal Society Wellcome Trust Henry Dale Fellow, Autistica Future Research Leader and Principal Investigator of the PaL Lab. 

She received a first class honours degree in Psychology & Philosophy from the University of Glasgow (2002-2006), before completing a PhD at the University of Cambridge (2006-2010). Her PhD was supervised by the late Dr Andrew Calder, and investigated adaptive gain control mechanisms and top-down processing in social cognition. As a postdoc at University College London she researched the computational and neurobiological mechanisms underlying neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders. First with Prof. Jon Roiser (2011-2014) she combined computational modelling and high-resolution imaging methods to examine how negative expectations are processed in major depressive disorder. Then with Prof. Geraint Rees (2014-2017), she advanced a computationally informed theory of neural gain and sensory expectations in autism.


Dr. Eleanor Smith: I received my PhD in Psychology from Lancaster University under the supervision of Prof. Vincent Reid and Dr Trevor Crawford in 2018. My dissertation work was focused on the influence of maternal personality on early sensory development in their 6-month-old offspring. I explored the development risk associated with schizotypal traits and the schizophrenia-spectrum. It has been known for some time that maternal personality is an influential factor in determining developmental and clinical outcomes in childhood risk for mental health disorders, but very little is known about how parental traits affect their offspring’s neural development in infancy. In my PhD research I used multiple tools including EEG, eye-tracking and behavioural measures. I joined the Cambridge Babylab in December 2018 as a postdoctoral research associate to work with Dr Rebecca Lawson in the PaL Lab where our current project explores computational modelling and brain imaging with the aim of further understanding how humans learn to build expectations regarding the environment around them. We hope to understand how predictive neural processes may underlie individual differences in environmental experience among individuals with neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric conditions. Nevertheless, present investigations explore how infants build associations between auditory and visual stimuli and how their predictions about the environment change and develop as these associations are violated.


Addison Niemeyer photo

Mrs Addison Billing: I am a PhD student at UCL in both DOT-HUB and the Vocal Communication Group (Cognitive Neuroscience). I am is interested in the development of the neural circuits that underlie social behaviour disorders such as Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC). My current project examines individual differences in the production and perception of non-verbal vocal communication using a variety of non-invasive neurophysiological and behavioural measures. In infants, differences in these measures are correlated with the likelihood of later having an ASC diagnosis.


Dr Berk Mirza: In my work, I apply Bayesian models of perception, action and attention to simple human decision making and visual exploration paradigms. In particular, I use partially observable Markov decision process (POMDP) models of active inference.

I completed my PhD at UCL under the supervision of Dr Rick Adams and Prof Karl Friston in 2019. In my PhD, I applied active inference models on visual search paradigms, with an emphasis on computational modelling of information gathering. I joined Dr Rosalyn Moran's lab at KCL as a postdoctoral researcher in 2019. Here, I conducted an eye-tracking study, focusing on exploratory and choice behaviour in psychosis. I joined the BabyPaL lab in 2021 to work with Dr Rebecca Lawson. Here, we explore infant decision making and eye movement behaviour using eye-tracking and computational modelling.


Dr Bronagh McCoy: I joined the PaL Lab after completing my PhD at Vrije Universiteit (VU) in Amsterdam. My PhD research investigated the computational and neural basis of reward influences on perception, and applied modelling, fMRI and pharmacological methods in both healthy adults and adults with Parkinson's disease. My main research interests are broadly in computational psychiatry and in the PaL lab I will be using 7T imaging, eye-tracking and pharmacology to understand the computational mechanisms of uncertainty processing in adults with autism and anxiety.


Mr Levi Baljer:  I joined the PaL lab as a research assistant in 2021 after completing an MSc in Neuroscience at King’s College London under the supervision of Dr Rosalyn Moran and Prof Robert Leech. My master’s thesis investigated the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics from the perspective of computational psychiatry, and involved the analysis of resting-state fMRI data using spectral Dynamic Causal Modelling. 

My research interests lie at the intersection of active inference, artificial intelligence, and theoretical neurobiology. Within the BabyPaL lab, I assist Dr. Rebecca Lawson’s team in the computational modelling of infant learning.