Eric Rawls, PhD

Eric Rawls

Post-doc scholar, TRACT TL1 Program

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Medical School

Primary mentor: Schott Sponheim, Medical School
Additional mentors: Natasha Hampton-Anderson, Medical School; Erich Kummerfeld, Institute for Health Informatics

Project: The neural correlates of impaired state representations: a Translational approach for the study of early psychosis

Humans have a remarkable ability to control our actions in pursuit of long-term goals (cognitive control). However, since cognitive control is costly in terms of effort, individuals must constantly weigh the costs of exerting control against the likelihood that exertion will benefit their long-term goals (referred to as utility). This leads to dynamic changes in cognitive control due to fluctuations in the current utility of control, where cognitive control is instead typically studied as a static process. Many diseases including addiction, psychosis, and post-traumatic stress hinder utility learning, which might impact the ability to control behavior in pursuit of long-term goals.

My research program broadly focuses on three related themes:

  1. how do we learn the utility of our actions and efforts?
  2. how do we use these learned utilities to adaptively modify cognitive control behaviors?
  3. what can the neuroscience of valuation and cognitive control tell us about the computational mechanisms contributing to behavioral deficits in psychopathology?

My research program pursues these overarching questions with a combination of computational modeling, electroencephalography (EEG), neuroimaging (fMRI), machine learning, and behavioral/self-report methods. My research conveys both basic and applied scientific foci by using a computational psychiatry lens to translate basic science into applied clinical knowledge.