PSY 1451: Debugging the Brain: Computational Approaches to Mental Dysfunction

Office hours

By appointment. Please contact Prof. Gershman (


Course Requirements

Grading will be based on the following elements:

(i) Reading responses, due 9pm on the night before class. Each reading response should consist of one paragraph for each reading.

(ii) Each student must lead the discussion of at least one paper. The student should read all the reading responses and synthesize a set of questions to guide the discussion. They should also begin each discussion with a brief summary of the paper.

(iii) Psychology graduate students who wish to receive credit towards their degree requirements must additionally write a 10-page final paper on a topic of their choosing.


Academic Honor

You are expected to submit your own, original work for the exam and the final paper. Any misconduct will be reported, as is required by the college. Discussing your ideas with others and getting feedback on your work is encouraged, but you are required to cite any and all ideas that are not your own, and ensure that any assignments you turn in are your own writing and the result of your own research.



Any student needing academic adjustments or accommodations is requested to present their letter from the Accessible Education Office (AEO) and speak with the professor by the end of the second week of the term, (specific date). Failure to do so may result in the Course Head’s inability to respond in a timely manner. All discussions will remain confidential, although AEO may be consulted to discuss appropriate implementation.


Class 1: Introduction and overview


Huys, Q.J.M., Maia, T., & Frank, M.J. (2016). Computational psychiatry as a bridge from neuroscience to clinical applications. Nature Neuroscience, 19, 404-413.


Class 2: Schizophrenia, part 1


Braver, T.S., Barch, D.M., & Cohen, J.D. (1999). Cognition and control in
schizophrenia: a computational model of dopamine and prefrontal function.
Biological Psychiatry, 46, 312-328.

Presenter: Kristen Fang


Maia, T.V. & Frank, M.J. (2016). An integrative perspective on the role of dopamine in schizophrenia. Biological Psychiatry, 81, 52-66.

Presenter: Harry Fu


Class 3: Schizophrenia, part 2


Rolls, E.T., Deco, G. (2011). A computational neuroscience approach to
schizophrenia and its onset. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 35, 1644–1653.

Presenters: T'Ajmal Hogue


Stephan, K.E., Baldeweg, T., & Friston, K.J. (2006). Synaptic plasticity and disconnection in schizophrenia. Biological Psychiatry, 59, 929–39.

Presenters: Philip Thomsen


Class 4: Hallucinations and delusions


Corlett, P. R., Horga, G., Fletcher, P. C., Alderson-Day, B., Schmack, K., & Powers III, A. R. (2018). Hallucinations and strong priors. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 23, 114-127.

Presenters: Molly Sacks


Coltheart, M., Menzies, P., & Sutton, J. (2010). Abductive inference and delusional belief. Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, 15, 261-287.

Presenters: Josh Stern


Class 5: Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder


Frank, M.J., Santamaria, A., O’Reilly, R.C., & Willcutt, E. (2007). Testing computational models of dopamine and noradrenaline dysfunction in attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Neuropsychopharmacology, 32, 1583–1599.

Presenters: Kayla Johnson, Jackie Walzer


Hauser, T. U., Fiore, V. G., Moutoussis, M., & Dolan, R. J. (2016). Computational psychiatry of ADHD: neural gain impairments across Marrian levels of analysis. Trends in neurosciences, 39, 63-73.

Presenters: Kevin Dai, Chloe Close


Class 6: Obsessive-compulsive disorder


Rolls, E. T., Loh, M., & Deco, G. (2008). An attractor hypothesis of obsessive–compulsive disorder. European Journal of Neuroscience, 28, 782-793.

Presenters: Emma Rogge


Vaghi, M. M., Luyckx, F., Sule, A., Fineberg, N. A., Robbins, T. W., & De Martino, B. (2017). Compulsivity reveals a novel dissociation between action and confidence. Neuron, 96, 348-354.

Presenters: Zach Diamandis


Class 7: Autism


Pellicano, E., & Burr, D. (2012). When the world becomes “too real”: A Bayesian explanation of autistic perception. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 16, 504–510.

Presenters: Annabelle Tao, Marisa Trapani


Rosenberg, A., Patterson, J.S., & Angelaki, D.E. (2015). A computational perspective on autism. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112, 9158–9165.

Presenters: Christine Jou


Class 8: Depression


Huys, Q.M., Daw, N.D., & Dayan, P. (2015). Depression: a decision-theoretic analysis. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 38, 1-23.

Presenters: Luke Sajer


Becker, S., & Wojtowicz, J.M. (2007). A model of hippocampal neurogenesis
in memory and mood disorders. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 11, 70 –76.

Presenters: Jeanne Khang


Class 9: Mood and anxiety


Raymond, J. G., Steele, J. D., & Seriès, P. (2017). Modeling trait anxiety: From computational processes to personality. Frontiers in psychiatry, 8, 1.

Presenters: Evelyn Wong


Mkrtchian, A., Aylward, J., Dayan, P., Roiser, J. P., & Robinson, O. J. (2017). Modeling avoidance in mood and anxiety disorders using reinforcement learning. Biological psychiatry, 82, 532-539.

Presenters: Isabel Ruehl, Amanda Westort


Class 10: Addiction, part 1

Simon, D. A., & Daw, N. D. (2012). Dual-system learning models and drugs of abuse. In Computational neuroscience of drug addiction (pp. 145-161). Springer, New York, NY.

Presenters: Michael Wornow, Jake Cui


Redish, A.D., Jensen, S., Johnson, A. (2008). A unified framework for addiction: vulnerabilities in the decision process. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 31, 415–37.

Presenters: Olivia Chapman


Class 11: Addiction, part 2


Gutkin, B.S., Dehaene, S., & Changeux, J.-P. (2006). A neurocomputational hypothesis for nicotine addiction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 103, 1106–1111.

Presenters: Antonio Moreno, Kendall Zhu


Dayan, P. (2009). Dopamine, reinforcement learning, and addiction. Pharmacopsychiatry, 42, 56–65.

Presenters: Katharine Pan


Class 12: Transdiagnostic approaches


Gillan, C. M., Kosinski, M., Whelan, R., Phelps, E. A., & Daw, N. D. (2016). Characterizing a psychiatric symptom dimension related to deficits in goal-directed control. Elife, 5, e11305.

Presenters: Josie Wolf


Cramer, A. O., Waldorp, L. J., Van Der Maas, H. L., & Borsboom, D. (2010). Comorbidity: A network perspective. Behavioral and brain sciences, 33, 137-150.

Presenters: Joyce Clanon





Course Summary:

Date Details Due