People



 Uri Maoz

an Assistant Professor of Computational Neuroscience at the Crean College of Health and Behavioral Sciences and at the newly minted Institute for Interdisciplinary Brain and Behavioral Sciences at Chapman University. He is also a Visitor in Neuroscience at Caltech. He received his PhD from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem working with Profs. Tamar Flash and Yair Weiss. After a short postdoctoral fellowships at the Weizmann Institute of Science with Prof. Shimon Ullman, he moved on to postdoctoral research at Caltech with Christof Koch and Ralph Adolphs. His research program focuses on the role of consciousness in decision-making--especially in decisions that matter, on neuroethics, and on methods to enhance reproducibility in neuroscience . He uses behavioral, neuroimaging (intracranial and EEG recordings), and computational modeling techniques. In particular, he uses machine-learning to predict upcoming behavior from neural activity on the fly, on line, and in closed loop.


Graduate student collaborators

 

 Majed Samad

Graduate Major: Psychology/Cognitive Neuroscience, Ph.D. with Computational Cognition, UCLA

Undergraduate Major: Biochemical Engineering, M.Eng with Bioprocess Management

Project: I have been collaborating with the Maoz lab on an investigation of the effect of motivational state on the ability of subjects to estimate the time of onset of their decisions to move. I have always been intrigued by the findings of Benjamin Libet and his successors, showing that behavior can be predicted before the subject is even aware of having made a decision, thus calling into question the assumption that we freely will our actions. My Ph.D. research revolves around investigating the computational principles that underlie human perception, and in particular am interested in elucidating the mechanisms of multisensory integration that give rise to the feeling of ownership over the body. 

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 Chela Willey

Graduate Major: Cognitive Psychology with a minor in Quantitative Psychology, UCLA.

Undergraduate Major: B.A. in Psychology and Criminology & Justice Studies (double major) and a M.A. in Experimental Psychology, California State University, San Marcos

I am a graduate student in Dr. Zili Liu's visual perception lab where I study the integration of visual, vestibular and proprioceptive cues to estimate characteristics about a real or simulated environment. More generally, I am interested in the application of virtual reality to enhance psychological research. I am working with Dr. Maoz on a project that investigates a virtually immersive and applicable variation of the classic Trolley Problem. 

Research assistants

 
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 Fangfang Hong

Undergraduate Majors: Mathematics/Economics, Psychology, UCLA

Project: We are investigating the neural mechanisms of decision-making under the influence of alcohol using an electroencephalography (EEG). Previous research has shown that people who drank alcohol are more likely to make poor decisions. Some studies examined the psychological process underlying risky decisions in such subjects, while others focused on finding specific parts of the brain that underlies risky decision. However, we found no research that tested the extent to which these subjects are consciously aware of the risk they take when making bad decisions? Our study aims to find the link between judgment of risk and quality of decision-making. In the experiment, participants are asked to drink from a glass that either contains or does not contain alcohol while playing card games and reporting risks. At first, we are validating our experimental paradigm behaviorally. Next, we will record subjects’ brain activity using EEG during the task.


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 Allison Jarvis

Undergraduate Majors: B.S. in Psychology, Indiana University.

Project: My project investigates the neural underpinnings of ethics and decision-making relating to the trolley problem. She plans on attending medical school in the future. 
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 Amirvala (AV) Tavakoli

I apply techniques from psychophysics, electroencephalography (EEG) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to investigations of human perception and cognition. In one experiment, we are investigating how EEG oscillations contribute to the integration of conflicting sensory information. In another experiment, we are applying TMS over motor-cortex to investigate agency over motoric activity. My diverse role in the lab has included the configuring the EEG set-up, training researchers in the recording of EEG and the visual inspection of recorded EEG for artifacts. I also processing our EEG data with EEGLAB and Matlab.  

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 Sook Mun (Alice) Wong

Undergraduate Majors: B.A in Psychology, minor in Cognitive Science and a specialization in computing, UCLA

Projects: I am working with Dr. Maoz on a paradigm derived from Libet (1983) to investigate the effect of decision type on the timing of people’s reports of having decided. We are interested in how robust peoples’ reports of having made a decision are, and whether having control of the consequences of a decision affects these reports. Originally a behavioral study, we now plan to run an EEG-based investigation of this question.
I am also working on another project looking at how maximally or minimally random can people be when generating sequences of rock-paper-scissors, and what factors affect people's random sequence generation.


Undergraduate students

 
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 Jungsu Pak

Undergraduate Majors: Cognitive science major specialization in computing

Project: Our project is trying to create as realistic environment as possible with oculus, unity, and wii wheel to examine the decisions participants would make in a virtual reality regarding autonomous vehicles and their attitudes towards utilitarian algorithm.


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 Sakiko Shida

Undergraduate Majors: Cognitive science

Project: I am currently involved in a study that investigates the neural processes underlying deliberate and arbitrary decision-making. In particular, we aim to test the validity of reported decision-onset times, comparing them between arbitrary and deliberate decisions.
 Kellienne (Kay) Sita

Majors: Cognitive Science, B.S. with Specialization in Computing

Project: Our current project is a continuation of a theoretical paper Dr. Maoz co-authored in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. Our work aims to interpret the effect of the double-subject fallacy (DSF). A classic example of DSF is “My brain made me do it.” In this sentence, you can see that the brain and the individual are separated from one another by the use of a double predication. This linguistic shorthand separating brain from person may be problematic. While many would assume that this truncation is merely colloquial, there is evidence of its use in many domains, including peer-reviewed articles. We believe that the dualism implied in this abbreviation can be misleading, and therefore widespread use may be problematic. With the increasing impact of neuroscience in the legal community as a defense strategy to reduce perceived culpability of defendants, we aim to investigate if the use of DSF alters participants’ perception of moral responsibility.


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Xian (Gloria) Zhang

Major: Psychology, with Specialization in Computing

Project: I am currently involved in a study exploring the neural mechanisms behind decision-making process by measuring the time of deliberate and arbitrary decisions’ onsets. This study examines the generalizability of Benjamin Libet’s experimental paradigm across various types of decisions with different levels of motivation and reasoning.
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 Naveed Ziari

Majors: Bioengineering with Specialization in Computer Science

Project: We are studying the neural correlates of decision making by timing the onset of arbitrary and deliberate decisions. This project tests the generalizability of the Libet results by introducing motivational factors into the decisions. We aim to test the degree to which such motivational factors modulate the reported onset of decisions (W time).


Alumni

 

 Priyanka Mehta

Currently a graduate student with Ben Hayden in Rochester University.
Garance Merholz

 Garance (Gigi) Merholz

Currently a graduate student at the École Normale Supérieure, Paris.

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