Cecilia joins the lab as Phd Student

Today, we are thrilled to welcome Cecilia Vezzani to the neuroMADLAB. Cecilia recently graduated with an M.Sc. in Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Oslo. She conducted her thesis work on opioid-induced changes in reinforcement learning during stress in Siri Leknes’ lab. Moreover, she worked as a teaching and research assistant at the Department of Psychology.

Before moving to Oslo for her master’s, Cecilia obtained her B.Sc. in Psychology from the University of Bologna. She also studied as an exchange student at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Isreal focusing on psychopathology and the treatment of mental disorders and as an Erasmus+ student at the University of Bergen.

Cecilia is broadly interested in affective neuroscience and decision-making with an emphasis on the modulation of choices and learning by affective and bodily states as well as rewards. To better understand neural mechanisms of behavioral control, she uses pharmacological interventions and investigates neuroendocrine modulations. In addition to her curricular activities, she was an active member of the student parliament and the Vice President of the local chapter of Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund at the University of Oslo. In addition, she was engaged in the meetings of the local ReproducibiliTea chapter.

Outside of the lab, Cecilia is a skilled Flutist and she will now add a fifth European language to her growing repertoire. If you want to more about where she is headed, make sure to follow her on Twitter @Cecivez

Breaking the shackles of reward: dopamine’s role in exploration

~7min read

The world is full of options. So how do we know which goal to pursue and how much effort to put in? And how can we keep track of our progress towards these goals? All these questions point to the action of one neurotransmitter in the brain: dopamine. Yes, dopamine has been previously linked to pleasure or “reward”. Dopamine is still widely believed to do all sorts of things such as getting people hooked on drugs or even cell phones. However, by now, it is well-established that altering dopamine in the brain does not change one’s pleasure in receiving rewards. Instead, dopamine comes into play whenever motivated behavior must be adjusted to pursue a goal.

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Junior research group receives an award from the Faculty of Medicine

On the 25th of January, the Faculty of Medicine hosted its annual research colloquium showcasing current projects and emerging initiatives. And the faculty had good reason to celebrate the recent success of three approved applications for research clusters. These clusters are not only vital for an extension of the university’s “excellence” status; they will shape the focus of research on key challenges such as personalized medicine for the next decade. Arguably, there is a lot that we can learn from other disciplines in medicine about individualizing predictions for the treatment of mental disorders and it will be an exciting endeavor for us to embark on.

As part of the annual research colloquium, all intramurally funded research projects present the results of their ongoing efforts to show where they are heading and to facilitate the exchange across departments. After establishing the junior research group in 2017, this year was our first turn to present. And we also had good reason to celebrate as our work “Going with your gut: vagal nerve stimulation modulates effort” resonated well with the reviewers and received a poster award. Congratulations to everyone who made it happen. Watch this space for the upcoming preprints.

Happy faces after the award was announced.

Nils has received a Publons Peer Review Award

Every year during Peer Review Week, Publons celebrates the service of reviewers as #SentinelsofScience, who demonstrate their commitment to quality and integrity of scholarly publications. We are happy to announce that this year, Nils has won a Peer Review Award in the category Neuroscience & Behavior as one of the top 1% reviewers in the field. Congratulations!


For more information, check out his Publons profile.

DAAD RISE: Welcome, Naria!


It is a pleasure for us to announce that we have a new member in our team. A student supported by the RISE (Research in Science and Engineering) program of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) was successfully placed in our group.

Naria Quazi is an undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley. Studying Neurobiology and Psychology at her home university, Naria has a fascination with how the brain works both at the molecular and behavioral level. Naria will be joining neuroMADLAB for the summer of 2018.