Principal Investigator

Rebecca Lawson


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.


Becky is a Lecturer in the Department of Experimental 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 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 postdoc at University College London she researched the computational and neurobiological mechanisms underlying neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders. First with Prof. Jon Roiser (2011-2014) she combined computational modelling and high-resolution imaging methods to examine how negative expectations are processed in major depressive disorder. Then with Prof. Geraint Rees (2014-2017), she advanced a computationally informed theory of neural gain and sensory expectations in autism.

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 (2014) and the SOBP Early Career Investigator Award (2018), the BAP Psychopharmacology Award (2018), and the UCL Neuroscience Early Career Research Prize (2018).

Becky values public engagement, and has been involved with the knit-a-neuron, Guerilla Science and most recently with @PrideinSTEM.

Her CV can be found here.

Ellie Smith (postdoc)


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 will be heading up the infant studies in the PaL Lab which use fNIRS and modelling to understand how we learn to build expectations in infancy and how these mechanisms change across development. 

Ellie's dog Remy is the goodest floofer and the official mascot for the PaL Lab. You can check out Ellie's Google Scholar here and find her on Twitter here. 

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). 

Tim Sandhu (PhD student)

Visiting Students

Kelsey Perrykkad (visiting PhD student)

Emma Ward (visiting PhD student)


Emma is a visiting PhD student from the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour at Radboud University in the Netherlands, where she is primarily supervised by Sabine Hunnius. Emma investigates the developmental aspects of predictive processing in infants and children who have autistic siblings. Emma recently visited the PaL Lab in Cambridge to begin work on a meta-analysis of adaptation in autism.

Emma can be found on Twitter, and you can check out her Google Scholar here.


Kelsey is a visiting PhD student from Monash University in Melbourne, where she is primarily supervised by the brilliant Jakob Hohwy. Kelsey investigates the self in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Kelsey recently visited the PaL Lab in Cambridge to start analysis of a super cool project investigating how volatility and variance affect sampling behaviour when making judgements of self-hood. Kelsey will next visit the PaL lab in summer 2019.

Kelsey is awesome at digital art - like, bloody brilliant. She also writes for the Conversation, she can be found on Twitter, and you can check out her Google Scholar here.


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