Quentin Huys

Quentin Huys
Wellcome Trust Neuroimaging Centre, Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit, University College London
London, United Kingdom

Speaker of Workshop 2

Will talk about: The fight within: decision making in mood disorders

Bio sketch:

Quentin Huys received his BA from Cambridge University and his PhD from the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit with Peter Dayan. He then underwent postdoctoral training at Columbia University, and is currently completing his medical studies at UCL. He is an affiliated fellow at the Gatsby Unit and at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at UCL. He is interested in applying computational techniques to decision making, particularly in the setting of psychiatric mood disorders. This involves a combination of theoretical, behavioural, pharmacological and imaging techniques.

Talk abstract:

Mood and anxiety disorders are highly co-morbid and overlap in both phenomenology and treatment response. This motivates an hierarchical model of disease aetiology that hinges on the interaction between decision-making systems. It suggests that in health, complex decision makers like goal-directed, model-based systems are supported by simple and approximate, but evolutionarily validated "crutches" provided by Pavlovian responses to affectively laden situations. The talk will first argue that both depression and general anxiety are marked by a fundamental alteration in the manner in which Pavlovian cues impact on approach and withdrawal behaviours. Building on this, I will then present evidence that goal-directed decision making relies on a simple Pavlovian mechanism to prune computationally complex decision trees and that this tendency is indeed altered in depression. I will close by presenting a model of how common dysfunctions in simple decision making systems can percolate through to complex decision makers and produce distinct, yet co-morbid and overlapping, disease entities.

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