Dr Jiaxiang Zhang

Dr Jiaxiang Zhang

Senior Lecturer

Email:
zhangj73@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone:
+44 (0)29 208 70471
Location:
School of Psychology, Park Place, Cardiff, CF10 3AT
Available for postgraduate supervision

My research involves investigation of neural and computational mechanisms of decision-making, learning and action. A central theme is to understand how the human brain integrates cognitive and perceptual processes to regulate behaviour in a dynamic, changing environment. The new understanding of these basic cognitive operations is then used for the examination of cognitive deficits in neurodegeneration and dementia. I use a combination of multimodal neuroimaging, behavioural measures, and computational modelling.

For more information, please visit: http://ccbrain.org

Postdoctoral fellowships and PhD studentships are available. Please contact me for further details.

Education

  • 2008 PhD, Department of Computer Sciences, University of Bristol
  • 2005 MSc in Advanced Computing (distinction), Department of Computer Sciences, University of Bristol
  • 2003 BEng in Computer Networking, Northwestern Polytechnical University, China

Honours and awards

  • Trainee travel award, Organization for Human Brain Mapping (2014, 2011)
  • Junior Research Fellow (elected), Wolfson College, University of Cambridge (2011-2014)
  • Overseas Research Student Award (2006-2008)

Academic positions

2017 – present Senior Lecturer, School of Psychology, Cardiff University, UK
2015 – 2017 Lecturer, School of Psychology, Cardiff University, UK
2010 – 2014 Investigator scientist, MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, UK
2008 – 2010 Postdoctoral research fellow, School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, UK

Committees and reviewing

  • Grant review for ESRC, BBSRC, MRC, Royal Society, Wellcome Trust, ANR (France), FWO (Belgium), Irish Research Council and Research Promotion Foundation (Cyprus)
  • Journal review for Advances in Cognitive Psychology, Behavior Research Methods, Brain, Cognitive Neurodynamics, Current Biology, eLife, European Journal of Neuroscience, Experimental Brain Research, Frontiers (in Decision Neuroscience, Human Neuroscience and Psychology), Journal of Mathematical Psychology, Journal of Neuroscience, Journal of Experimental Psychology: applied, Journal of Pain Research, Knowledge-Based Systems, Neurocomputing, Neuroimage, Neuropsychologia, Psychological Review, Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, Psychopharmacology, Psychological Science, Plos One, Scientific Reports
  • External examiner: MSc in Clinical Cognitive Neuroscience, Sheffield Hallam University (2013-17)

2018

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

  • UG Year 1 – PS1018 Research Methods in Psychology (practicals, 2015-16)
  • UG Year 2 – PS2017 Biological Psychology (2015-16), PS2023 Thinking, Emotion and Consciousness (2016-present)
  • UG Final Year – PS3000 Final year research projects
  • MSc – PTS507 Neuroimaging of Perception and Action (2015-17)
  • MSc – Neuroimaging Research Project (2016-present)

Research topics

For more information, please visit my lab website: http://ccbrain.org

1. How do we make rapid decisions? – The deciding brain

On a foggy night, you drive up to a traffic light. Visibility is poor and you can hardly see if the signal is green or red. On such scenario, making the right decision is critical.

Our brain has an amazing ability to conduct such tasks rapidly and accurately. We examine how the brain integrates information over a short time period during decision-making. The integration of information is an essential process. It reduces the noise in sensory systems and thereby facilitates more accurate choices. We use computational models at different levels of complexity to account for behavioural measures and neuroimaging data (fMRI and MEG/EEG). This work helps us understand different roles of brain regions during the decision processes, and reveals the information flow from perception to action.

2. How do we choose between equal options? – The volitional brain

Apple or orange, cash or card: we can intentionally choose between these options in order to fulfil our goals and desires, even when all the options are similar and not associated with explicit rewards. The notion of intentional decision covers this fundamental, yet poorly understood ability to our lives: acting voluntarily based on internal intention.

How do we make decisions based on internal intention? How do internal and external factors influence intentional decisions? Can we ever predict one’s intention? We study the computational, neuroanatomical and neurochemical mechanisms of intentional decisions.

3. When and how can things go wrong? – The diseased brain

We often take our basic cognitive capacities for granted until diseases take it away from us. In patients with neurodegenerative diseases, the inability of appropriate behaviour can manifest as impulsivity, apathy, and perseveration that affects patients’ quality of life severely, and exacerbate carer burden.

In collaboration with clinical scientists, we use multimodal brain imaging and computational simulation as tools, to provide a mechanistic understanding of brain alternations and cognitive decline in patients with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. We also examine healthy young adults with heightened genetic risks of age-related cognitive decline, decades before any symptom becomes clinically apparent.

Funding

  • PI, “Free the mind: the neurocognitive determinants of intentional decision”, European Research Council starting grant (€1.48m). 2017-22.
  • PI, “Characterising alternations of neural dynamics in intractable epilepsy using neurophysiologically-informed models”,Wellcome Trust ISSF (£44k). 2017-18.
  • Lead Supervisor, “Optimal decoding of spatiotemporal patterns in Magnetoencephalography (MEG)”, EPSRC DTP PHD studentship (~£80k). 2017-21.
  • Co-I, “Recurrence analysis for time-varying networks and its application to brain dynamics”, GW4 Data Science Seed Corn Funding (£5k). PI: Naoki Masuda. 2018.
  • Co-I, “A new noradrenergic strategy to treat Impulsivity in Progressive Supranuclear Palsy”, Medical Research Council (£805k FEC). PI: James Rowe. 2017-20.
  • Co-I, “Characterising brain network differences during scene perception and memory in young adult APOE-e4 carriers: multi-modal imaging in ALSPAC”. Medical Research Council (£1.8M FEC). PIs: Kim Graham and Andrew Lawence. 2016-20.
  • Co-I, “Neuro-physiologically informed models and machine learning classification of task-driven and resting state oscillatory dynamics in Schizophrenia”. Wellcome Trust ISSF (£38k). PI: Krish Singh. 2015-16.

Research group

Research collaborators

Internal
Prof Kim Graham, Prof Andrew Lawrence, Prof Krish Singh, Prof Petroc Sumner

External
Prof Sheng Li (Peking), Dr Naoki Masuda (Bristol), Dr James Rowe (Cambridge), Prof Hartwig Siebner (Copenhagen)

If you are interested in applying for a PhD, please contact me. I supervise PhD students in the areas of:

  • Decision making and learning
  • Voluntary behaviour and volition
  • Brain imaging and human electrophysiology

For more information,  please visit https://ccbrain.org

Current supervision

Maciej Szul

Research student

Dominik Krzeminski

Research student

Wojciech Zajkowski

Research student

Past projects

  • Yuedong Song (Co-supervised with Michael Gordon) at Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge
  • Emmy Tsang (MRC summer studentship). Now predoctoral  fellow at EMBL.