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.