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Research profile dr. M.K. (Marieke) van Vugt

Artificial Intelligence & Cognitive Engineering (ALICE)

Research description :

Dr. van Vugt seeks to understand how we make decisions, what drives these decisions, and how we can use mental training to improve decision making and cognitive functioning in general. To investigate these problems, she uses a three-pronged approach that combines behavioral testing, neuroscience and computational modeling. All three prongs complement each other. For example, computational models can help to give a specific, mechanistic interpretation to patterns of neural activity. In the case of decision making, drift diffusion processes are used as a model for evidence accumulation. Dr. van Vugt has shown that brain waves in the 4—9 Hz theta band are related to this modeled evidence accumulation process.

For more complex decisions that involve information from memory, for example, it is necessary to rely on cognitive architectures to model these decisions. She has shown how cognitive architectures can describe what the functional role is of the synchronization between different parts of the brain that are frequently observed.

A final interest of Dr. van Vugt is the cognitive mechanisms that underlie distraction and mindfulness. Decomposing mindfulness in with computational models can help to better understand how mental processes can be trained. For example, intensive mindfulness practice appears to improve the quality of attention parameter in a decision making model. Simulating distraction helps us understand under what circumstances people get distracted.

This research paves the way for understanding how distraction affects the decisions we make, and how we can apply mental training to improve decision making. In addition, the research seeks to understand better how different brain regions interact to create the cognitive processes that makes up. Understanding these processes better can have applications in both education and health care settings, in particular in the context of Healthy Ageing.

Keywords: decision making, brain oscillations, distraction, cognitive modeling, model-based neuroscience, mindfulness

Group website: Cognitive modelling
Employee (corporate) webpage

Last modified:26 August 2019 12.08 p.m.