Speakers - Block 2

Val Curran

Cannabis – madness and medicine?

Val Curran is a Professor of Psychopharmacology at UCL. Her research aims at understanding how psychotropic drugs like cannabis could be used to explore and thereby enhance our understanding of the neurotransmitter basis of cognitive and emotional processing. Cannabis has been used throughout history for its medicinal as well as its pleasurable effects. It has also been demonised over more recent decades for inducing ‘reefer madness’. The drug contains over 100 completely unique ingredients we call ‘cannabinoids’ and levels of these vary widely in different types of cannabis. How does this variation influence the effects of the drug? 

This talk will address this question and ask what implications our increasing scientific understanding of cannabis and our brains’ endocannabinoid system has for current debates about medicalization and legalization

Camilla Nord

Why psychiatry needs neuroscience: the search for new depression treatments

Camilla is a PhD student working in the Cognitive Neuropsychiatry lab. Her research investigates the neural basis of aberrant cognitions in neuropsychiatric disorders, particularly depression. Today, hundreds of thousands of studies have been published on the biology of psychiatric disorders, including depression. But in depression, and among mental health disorders in general, scientific discoveries have led to very few—if any— breakthroughs in treatment. What is preventing us from developing new treatments in mental health?

Using depression as a case study, Camilla will discuss some of the major advances in the search for new treatments, including work from her lab in identifying novel brain regions implicated in depression, and applying neuroscientific techniques to psychiatric clinical trials.

 Robb Rutledge

Modelling happiness

Robb is an MRC career development fellow who has recently opened a new lab at the Max Planck Centre for computational psychiatry and ageing research. His research combines computational modelling with neuroimaging, pharmacology, and neurophysiology to study the relationship between decisions and emotions across the lifespan. Feelings of happiness and sadness are central to conscious human experience, but we still know little about what happens in the brain when we have these feelings or how these feelings relate to our past and future decisions. Recently, Robb developed a computational and neural model of happiness that links rewards and expectations to subjective feelings and to dopamine.

His talk will address how different methods used in neuroscience can be combined in order to treat people suffering from depression and also study healthy individuals.


Sarah White

Autism: are you thinking what I think I'm thinking you're thinking?

Sarah is a senior research fellow in the metacognition and executive functions lab at the ICN. Her research focuses on mentalising and executive functioning in autism spectrum disorder. Autism is a puzzle. It’s carried in the genes but we don’t know which genes. It affects molecules and cells in the brain but we don’t know how. And every person with autism seems different but they all have the same diagnosis. One thing that does seem to draw all these individuals together is their difficulty mind-reading.

In this talk, Sarah will show you some of the experiments they've run to investigate mind-reading in autism. And she will present a new idea for how we might use that knowledge to help autistic children learn to mind-read.