Our lab uses fMRI and cognitive psychology methods to investigate
a variety of questions about human learning and cognition.

  I Category Learning and Corticostriatal Systems


Our core research examines how interactions between basal ganglia and cortex in corticostriatal "loops" underlie many fundamental aspects of human learning.  Much of our research focuses on category learning, which we believe serves as an excellent model system for learning processes generally. We find that different loops make different contributions to category learning.  The visual loop helps to process the visual stimulus and map it to the correct category.  The motor loop helps to select the correct motor response (e.g., pressing a key on a computer keyboard) to indicate the category.  The motivational loop processes the feedback reward associated with categorizing correctly or incorrectly, including calculating a reward prediction error.  Finally the executive loop helps to chose the correct strategy for categorization, and works with the motivational loop to process reward and feedback, including predicting the expected feedback or reward associated with each categorization trial.

A current focus of research in our lab is the question of generalization: how do these neural systems that are important for categorization extend information to never before seen members of a category? 

Systems Neuroscience of the Corticostriatal System

Our approach to Cognitive Neuroscience is integrative. When studying the corticostriatal system, our goal is to understand its function by combining information from the fields of anatomy, neurophysiology, computational neuroscience, behavior, and cognition.  Although our empirical work studies humans we believe it is important to understand the functions of the basal ganglia across species.  We also study how the corticostriatal system interacts with other neural systems, such as the hippocampus.


We are interested in the contributions of the basal ganglia and corticostriatal loops to a broad range of cognitive processes.  In a recent study we looked at how these systems are recruited during music harmony processing (Seger et al., 2013, Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience).  This study is part of an ongoing collaboration with Dr. Michael Thaut, Professor of Music at the University of Toronto. Our lab collaborates with the Cleary Memory lab in studies investigating how the hippocampus and perceptual cortex underlay different aspects of recognition memory. 

International Collaboration In China

Our lab has extensive collaborations with the School of Psychology, South China Normal University, Guangzhou, China.

Carol Seger holds a Chiang Jiang (Yangtze River) Scholar Chair Professorship at South China Normal (2015-2017).  She lived in China for 7 months in 2014 while on her last sabbatical , and since then has been returning for 2-3 months each year to work there and collaborate with faculty and students.

In 2015, CSU and SCNU signed an agreement to established the SCNU-CSU Joint International Laboratory for the Study of Mind and Brain.  The picture to the left shows the CSU delegation along with SCNU administrators at the unveiling of the commemorative plaque.

In June 2016, seven additional CSU faculty in Psychology and the Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Neurosciences Program travelled to China to visit CSU and begin collaborations.  We look forward to hosting a delegation from SCNU in November, 2016, as well as three SCNU visiting graduate students in 2016-2017.