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Department of Psychology


We all have expectations about how the how the world should look, feel, smell, taste and sound. These expectations act as predictions to guide us when we are uncertain, and signal when something out of the ordinary is happening.

 My work uses computational models, pharmacology and brain imaging to understand how humans learn to build adaptive expectations about the world around us, other people and ourselves.

The aim is to understand how and when predictions are realised in the brain, how these mechanisms develop in babies and how they might underlie individual differences in how the world is experienced by people with neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric conditions. 


Key publications: 

LAWSON, R. P., Mathys, C., & Rees, G. (2017) Adults with autism overestimate the volatility of the sensory environment. Nature Neuroscience. 20, 1293–1299


Palmer, C., LAWSON, R. P., & Hohwy, J. (2017) Bayesian approaches to autism: towards volatility, action, and behaviour. Psychological Bulletin. 143 (5), 521-542.


LAWSON, R. P., Nord, C.N., Seymour, B., Thomas, D.L., Dayan, P., Pilling, S., & Roiser. J.P. (2016) Disrupted habenula function in major depressive disorder. Molecular Psychiatry. 22, 202–208.


LAWSON, R. P., Aylward, J., White, S., Rees, G. (2015) A striking reduction of loudness adaptation in autism. Nature Scientific Reports. 5. 16157


LAWSON, R. P., Friston, K.J., & Rees, G. (2015) A more precise look at 'context' in autism. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(38):E5226. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1514212112.


LAWSON, R. P., Seymour, B., Loh, E., Lutti, A., Dolan, R.J., Dayan, P., Weiskopf, N., & Roiser, J.P. (2014) The habenula encodes negative motivational value associated with primary punishment in humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111 (32) pp. 11858-11863.


LAWSON, R.P.*, Ewbank, MP*, Henson,RN, Rowe, JB, Passamonti, L, Calder AJ. (2011) Changes in 'top-down' connectivity underlie repetition suppression in the ventral visual pathway. Journal of Neuroscience, 31(15), 5635-5642.

University Assistant Professor
Sir Henry Dale Fellow
Bye-Fellow at PeterHouse College
Person keywords: 
Perception and decision making
Computational neuroscience
Neuropsychiatric disorders
Takes PhD students
Not available for consultancy