Professor, Psychology

Contact information

James Danckert portraitOffice: Psychology, Anthropology, Sociology Building (PAS) 4040
Phone: 519-888-4567 x47014
Webpage: James Danckert's website
Website: Danckert Attention and Action Group

Appointed to Psychology in Cognitive Neuroscience.
Cross-appointed to the Research Institute in Aging.


PhD, La Trobe University (2000)
MA, La Trobe University (1997)
BASc, Melbourne University (1994)


I have two research programs in my lab that are relatively independent from one another: boredom and mental model updating.

I became interested in boredom when working with people who had suffered traumatic brain injuries - typically from things like car crashes. They reported feeling more bored than before their injury and I believed this to be an organic change in brain function not a psychological reaction. We study boredom in a wide range of ways: behavioural tasks like foraging which pit exploration against exploitation, sustained attention tasks that are by design monotonous and dull and executive control tasks that to some extent will tap into the capacity for self-control. We use neuroimaging techniques such as fMRI and more recently tDCS and we have an ongoing collaboration with an evolutionary geneticist to explore the genetic basis of boredom - all ultimately to understand the antecedents and mechanisms that give rise to boredom.

Our work on mental model updating was born out of work on the neglect syndrome - typically arising from right parietal neglect patients behave as though the left half of the world has ceased to exist. But the disorder is more nuanced than a simple model of deficient leftward orienting of attention would suggest. Patients also have problems with visual working memory, sustained attention, and temporal perception which can't be explained by a simple problem of attention. Together with my colleague Britt Anderson we developed a theory that suggests a network of predominantly right hemisphere brain regions is important for representing regularities in the world (i.e., building a mental model) and updating those representations when contingencies change. We work with stroke patients (we have a database of over 800 patients to recruit into research projects), fMRI and computational modelling to explore the mechanisms and neural networks important to model building and updating.

University of Waterloo

Profiles by type

Brain Day 2023 Videos On-line

The videos from Brain Day 2023 are now available on line at our youtube channel. Hope you enjoy.

CTN Masters Student Graduate Sugandha Sharma Appears on Generally Intelligent Podcast

Sugandha Sharma, masters student graduate of the University of Waterloo's CTN, discusses her research and time in the laboratory of CTN Founding Director Chris Eliasmith as well as her current PhD research at MIT on the Generally Intelligent Podcast. Give it a listen.

Sue Ann Campbell Presents at International Conference on Mathematical Neurosci 2022

Sue Ann Campbell (Applied Math/CTN core member) recently presented "Modulation of Synchronization by a Slowly Varying Current"  in July 2022 at the International Conference on Mathematical Neuroscience; Watch it on YouTubesue ann campbell presentation image of spikes

CTN Research Day 2023 Oct 17 16:30 - 19:00 QNC 0101

The Centre for Theoretical Neuroscience will be hosting its second Research Day. This will be a chance to start the new academic year by getting re-acquainted with each other and the diversity of research conducted by CTN core and affiliate faculty. The format will be to have a number of CTN faculty share short overviews of their lab's and projects (16:30-17:30) and then, following a short coffee break (17:30-18:00), hear from a dozen current graduate students and post-docs giving short three minute talks on an aspect of their current research (18:00-19:00).

Bots and Beasts. New book by CTN Founding Member Paul Thagard

Paul Thagard, philosopher, cognitive scientist, Killam prize winner, and founding CTN member has a new book out: Bots and Beasts. bots and beasts book cover