CNS 2021 | Young Investigator Award Lectures

Congratulations to Anne Collins, UC Berkeley and Amitai Shenhav, Brown University for being awarded the 2021 Young Investigator Award. Anne Collins and Amitai Shenhav will give their award lectures on Tuesday, March 16, 2021, 1:00 – 2:00pm (ET), Cerebrum Room.


Modeling the Role of Executive Functions in Reinforcement Learning

Tuesday, March 16, 2021, 1:00 - 1:30 PM (ET), Cerebrum Room

Speaker: Anne Collins, Department of Psychology and Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California Berkeley

Humans are uniquely able to flexibly and efficiently adapt to new situations. My talk will describe how this ability emerges from multiple neuro-cognitive processes that jointly and interactively contribute to learning. Reinforcement learning algorithms’ remarkable success in capturing a broad range of learning behavior obscures the reality of multiple underlying processes, such as working memory and reward-based instrumental learning. I will show how computational modeling can help disentangle such contributions. I will also show that executive functions contribute not only learning mechanisms, but also define the learning substrates for other learning mechanisms, setting the stage for what we learn about. Clarifying the contributions and interaction of different learning processes is essential to understanding individual learning differences, particularly in clinical populations and development. This work highlights the importance of studying learning as a multi-dimensional phenomenon that relies on multiple separable but inter-dependent computational mechanisms.


Weighing the Value of Control

Tuesday, March 16, 2021, 1:30 - 2:00 PM (ET), Cerebrum Room

Speaker: Amitai Shenhav, Assistant Professor, Department of Cognitive, Linguistic, & Psychological Sciences and Carney Institute for Brain Science, Brown University

Most tasks demand cognitive control, but exerting this control is effortful. How do we balance these two considerations to decide how to invest our cognitive effort? In this talk, I will discuss work in our lab that has sought to address this question, by modeling the cost-benefit analysis that determines how much and what kinds of control a person is willing to exert in a given situation. I will describe how these models have helped guide recent behavioral and neuroimaging research into the component processes that determine one's motivation to exert mental effort. I will also describe how this model-based approach has allowed us to formalize specific hypotheses regarding why mental effort allocation varies across contexts, individuals, and clinical populations, and how it has allowed us to disentangle different sources of such variability (e.g., differences in one's ability vs. desire to engage control processes). Collectively, this work has laid the foundation for further cross-disciplinary research into the neural circuits and computations that drive effortful thoughts and actions, and towards a better understanding of when and why they fail to do so.

About the YIA Award

The purpose of the awards is to recognize outstanding contributions by scientists early in their careers. Two awardees, one male and one female, are named by the Awards Committee, and are honored at the CNS Annual meeting.

The purpose of the Young Investigator Award is to recognize outstanding contributions by scientists early in their career. Two awardees, one male and one female, are named by the Awards Committee, and are honored at the CNS Annual meeting.

Previous Winners


Catherine Hartley, New York University

Samuel J. Gershman, Harvard University


Muireann Irish, The University of Sydney, Australia
Michael W. Cole, Rutgers University – Newark


Morgan Barense, University of Toronto
Michael Yassa, University of California, Irvine


Leah Somerville, Ph.D., Harvard University
Nicholas Turk-Browne, Ph.D., Princeton University


Adriana Galvan, UCLA
Joel Voss, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine


Donna Rose Addis, Ph.D., University of Auckland, NZ
Christopher Summerfield, Ph.D., University of Oxford


Daphna Shohamy, Ph.D. , Columbia University
David Badre, Ph.D., Brown University


Uta Noppeney, Ph.D., University of Birmingham, UK
Tor Wager, Ph.D., University of Colorado


Adam Aron, Ph.D., University of California San Diego Roshan Cools, Ph.D., Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour


Michael J. Frank, Ph.D., Brown University
Elizabeth Kensinger, Ph.D., Boston College


Kara Federmeier, University of Illinois
Adam Anderson, University of Toronto


Lila Davachi, New York University
Clayton Curtis, New York University


Charan Ranganath, University of California Davis
Kevin Ochsner, Columbia University
Rebecca Saxe, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Silvia A. Bunge, University of California
Steven Laureys, MD, University of Liège


Frank Tong, Vanderbilt University
Alumit Ishai, University of Zurich


Sabine Kastner, Princeton University
Kevin LaBar, Duke University


Anthony Wagner, Stanford University
Eleanor Maguire, University College London


Roberto Cabeza, Duke University
Sharon Thompson-Schill, University of Pennsylvania


Isabel Gauthier, Vanderbilt University
Randy Buckner, Washington University Saint Louis


APRIL 23–26 • 2022

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