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Principal Investigator

Rebecca Lawson


Becky is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Cambridge and a Senior Affiliated Scientist at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit. She is also Royal Society Wellcome Trust Henry Dale Fellow, Autistica Future Research Leader and Principal Investigator of the PaL Lab. 

She received a first class honours degree in Psychology & Philosophy from the University of Glasgow (2002-2006), before completing a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge (2006-2010). Her PhD was supervised by the late Dr Andrew Calder, and investigated adaptive gain control mechanisms and top-down processing in social cognition. As a postdoctoral scientist at University College London she researched the computational and neurobiological mechanisms underlying neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders. Her notable contributions to research include combining computational modelling and high-resolution imaging methods to examine how negative expectations are processed in major depressive disorder, and most recently advancing a computationally informed theory of neural gain and sensory expectations in autism that has been written up in Science.

Becky's research has been covered in many major news outlets (The New York Times, The Times, The BBC, NPR – Science Friday, Time Magazine) and has been recognised with the BNPA Lishmann Prize, the SOBP Early Career Investigator Award, the BAP Psychopharmacology Award,  the UCL Neuroscience Early Career Research Prize and the Lister Institue Research Prize.

Becky values public engagement, and has been involved with the knit-a-neuron, Guerilla Science and most recently with @PrideinSTEM. You can find a profile of her contributions to LGBT+ diversity in science in Communications Biology.


Brónagh McCoy (postdoc)


Brónagh joined the PaL lab after completing a PhD at Vrije Universiteit (VU) Amsterdam with Jan Theeuwes. Her PhD research investigated the computational and neural basis of reward influences on perception, and applied modelling, fMRI and pharmacological methods in both healthy adults and adults with Parkinson's disease. Brónagh is interested broadly in computational psychiatry and in the PaL lab she will be using 7T imaging, eye-tracking and pharmacology to understand the computational mechanisms of uncertainty processing in autism and anxiety.

Brónagh enjoys playing tennis, bouldering and getting lost in forests/mountains whenever possible.


You can find out about Brónagh's publications here and check out her Twitter here.


Her doctoral thesis, entitled "Visual attention and dopamine in value-based learning", can be viewed here.

Berk Mirza (postdoc)

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In his work, Berk applies Bayesian models of perception, action and attention to simple human decision making and visual exploration paradigms. In particular, he uses partially observable Markov decision process (POMDP) models of active inference.


He completed his PhD at UCL under the supervision of Dr Rick Adams and Prof Karl Friston in 2019. In his PhD, he applied active inference models on visual search paradigms, with an emphasis on computational modelling of information gathering. He joined Dr Rosalyn Moran’s lab at KCL as a postdoctoral researcher in 2019. Here, he conducted an eye-tracking study, focusing on exploratory and choice behaviour in psychosis. He joined the BabyPaL lab in 2021 to work with Dr Rebecca Lawson. Here, we explore infant decision making and eye movement behaviour using eye-tracking and computational modelling.

Addison Billing (postdoc)


Addison combines HD-DOT and eye-tracking to model prediction and cognitive flexibility in infants. 


Addison’s PhD project (GiggleDOT) is part of a collaboration between Cambridge Babylab and UCL that was supervised by Professor Sophie Scott and Dr Robert Cooper. GiggleDOT integrates HD-DOT and eye-tracking to better understand how infants process and produce laughter in a naturalistic environment. 


Addison enjoys fencing, eating baked goods, and going for long walks with Lucy the Labrador. For cute puppy pictures interspersed with a little science, you can follow her on Twitter.

Nazia Jassim (postdoc)


For her PhD research, Nazia used a variety of cognitive neuroscience techniques, from behavioural experiments to ultra-high-resolution 7T MRI and MR Spectroscopy, to investigate visual perception, systemising (i.e, pattern learning), and brain function in autistic adults. Nazia’s PhD was co-supervised by Prof. John Suckling and Prof. Simon Baron-Cohen at the ARC and Dr. Rebecca Lawson in the PaL Lab. She is now a postdoc in the PaL Lab on a prestigious Parke-Davis Fellowship and will be continuing her doctoral research on modelling learning in autism.

Prior to her doctoral studies in Cambridge, Nazia completed a Master’s in Cognitive Neuroscience at the Free University of Berlin, Germany, and a Bachelor’s in Biology at the Women’s Christian College, University of Madras, India. For her Master’s research, Nazia used fMRI to study emotion processing in adolescent depression.

Read more about Nazia’s research on Google Scholar or her personal website.


Nazia likes to unwind with horror movies, cat videos, spicy food, and 90s music.

Claudia Lage (PhD student)


Claudia has an MSc in Mental Health Studies from King’s College London and her research on repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation was supervised by Derek Tracy. Publications can be found here and here. Claudia has also worked across various clinical and educational settings with individuals with mental health disorders, learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorders. Her PhD research aims to explore behavioural flexibility and anxiety in autism using computational modelling.

In her spare time, she enjoys travelling, dancing, and cooking (and eating). 

Calum Guinea (PhD student)


Calum has a BSc in Psychology from Royal Holloway and an MRes in Cognitive Neuroscience from UCL. At UCL his research project on mood and loss aversion was supervised by Robb Rutledge and Rachel Bedder. Before joining the PaL Lab he worked as a research assistant at the Psychopharmacology and Emotion Research Lab in Oxford on a project aiming to understand the mechanisms of ketamine's rapid antidepressant action.

In October, 2021 he started a PhD with Rebecca broadly on learning and motivation. These two behaviours and their combination are in interesting basis on which to disentangle the often overlapping symptoms of depression and anxiety. His PhD will focus on describing these symptom-level effects on how we learn and how we use what we've learned in the past to make effort-based choices in the present.

In his spare time he likes to play the keyboard badly, take photos of things (mainly nature) and go to gigs.

You can follow him on Twitter here and read his publications here.

Tim Sandhu (PhD student)


Tim graduated with BSc Natural Sciences from UCL, where his undergraduate project reviewed the utility of active inference in computational psychiatry. He then undertook an RA position with Sanjay Manohar, investigating the role of dopamine in self-generated action and motor control in Parkinson’s Disease. He came to the PaL Lab as an RA in 2019, where he was involved in preparing the cam-raa project, establishing a relationship with the autism community, and contributing to online studies/the Covid survey.


In 2020 Tim became to a PhD student at the MRC CBU, primarily supervised by Rebecca and James Rowe. His project will focus on understanding how response to and learning under uncertainty might be underpinned by the noradrenaline-locus coeruleus system, and considering how a altered response to uncertainty may be a core aspect of psychopathology.


In his spare time, Tim likes to cook and swim, although not always at the same time. You can find him on Twitter

Levi Baljer (research assistant)


Levi completed an MSc in Neuroscience at King’s College London, where his research was supervised by Dr Rosalyn Moran and Prof Robert Leech. In this project, he investigated how DMT causes alterations in effective connectivity in neural microcircuits related to depression, analysing the therapeutic benefits of classical hallucinogens from the perspective of computational psychiatry. He joined the PaL Lab in 2021 as an RA and is involved in the in the group’s infant studies. 


In his spare time, he can usually be found in his local boxing gym or plucking away on a guitar.


Ellie Smith


Ellie was a postdoc in the lab from its inception until 2022. Ellie headed up the infant studies in the lab using fNIRS and modelling to understand how we learn to build expectations in infancy and how these mechanisms change across development. Ellie hails from a PhD at Lancaster University with Vincent Reid in which she used a combination of EEG and eye tracking methodologies to understand how parental schizotypy influences sensory gating abilities in their infant offspring.

Ellie is now a Research Manager at the Positive Group

You can check out Ellie's Google Scholar here and find her on Twitter here. 

Benjamin Illingworth


Benji graduated from UCL with a Batchelor of Medicine in 2019. He is now an Academic Clinical Fellow at Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust. with the Cambridge University Department of Psychiatry. He is a full-time Academic Foundation Doctor (FY2) and spends his research placements - based within the PaL lab, working on projects related to information sampling and psychopathology.

You can check his Twitter here. 

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