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Interactive Neural Systems for Adaptive Behavior 

Our lab investigates how people make adaptive, goal-directed decisions. This recent paper shows how interactions between brain systems for reward learning and memory enable context-sensitive decision making.

Neural Mechanisms of Structure Learning

In this paper, we make a theoretical proposal about how minds learn structured representations of the environment. A key point is that Bayesian inference can interact with reinforcement learning in the brain to enable adaptive decision making.


Leong, Y.C, Ballard, I.C. In the mind of the beholder: Neurocomputational Approaches to Motivated Seeing. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. Invited Submission.

Ballard, I.C.*, Pappas, I.*, Furman, D., Berry, A., White, R., Jagust, W.J., Kaiser, A., D’Esposito, M.D. Striatal dopamine influences the hemodynamic response in humans. SFN 2022 poster

Ballard, I.C, D’Esposito, M.D. Striatum updates goal values to support behavioral flexibility.

SANS 2021 poster

Ballard, I.C*, Furman, D.*, Berry, A., White, R., Jagust, W.J., Kayser, A., D’Esposito, M.D. Optimal dopaminergic tone for reward learning and executive control in humans.

SFN 2021 poster


Ballard, I.C., Pappas, I., Peters, J., D’Esposito, M.D. Orbifrontal cortex lesions disrupt hippocampal network connectivity.

CNS 2021 poster


Ballard, I.C., Nix, K., D’Esposito, M.D. Reward Reinforcement Creates Enduring Facilitation of Goal-directed Behavior. In Press. The Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.


Schuman, I.*, Yang, J.*, Ballard, I.C., Lapate, R. Waiting for it: Anorexia Risk, Future Orientation, and Intertemporal Discounting. Under Review.


Elliott, B., Mohyee, R., Ballard, I.C, Olson, I., Ellman, L., Murty, V.P. In Vivo Structural Connectivity of the Reward System Along the Hippocampal Long-Axis. In Press. Hippocampus.


Lapate, R., Ballard, I.C., Heckner, M., D’Esposito, M.D. Emotional context sculpts action goal representations in the lateral frontal pole. The Journal of Neuroscience, 42 (8): 1529–41 (2022). 


Shen, X., Ballard, I.C., Smith, D., Murty, V.P. Decision uncertainty during hypothesis testing has distinct influences on memory accuracy and memory confidence. Learning and Memory. 29 (4): 93–99 (2022).


McDougle, S.D., Ballard, I.C., Baribault, B., Bishop, S., Collins, A.D.E. Executive Function Assigns Value to Novel Goal-Congruent Outcomes. Cerebral Cortex, 32 (1): 231–47 (2021). 


Radulescu, A., Niv, Y., Ballard, I.C. Holistic Reinforcement Learning: The Role of Structure and Attention. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 23(4): 278–92 (2019).  


Ballard, I.C., Wagner, A.D., McClure, S.M. Hippocampal Pattern Separation Supports Reinforcement Learning. Nature Communications, 10(1): 1073 (2019).

PDF  |  Analysis Code  |  OpenNeuro Dataset

Ballard, I.C., McClure, S.M. Joint Modeling of Choice and Reaction Times Improves Parameter Identifiability in Reinforcement Learning Models. Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 317(4): 37–44 (2019). 

PDF  |  Analysis Code and Data

Diehl, M., Steele, V., Lempert, L., Parr, A., Ballard, I.C., Smith, D. Toward an Integrative Perspective on the Neural Mechanisms Underlying Persistent Maladaptive Behaviors. European Journal of Neuroscience, 48(3): 1870–83 (2018).


Ballard, I. C., Aydogan, G., Kim, B. & McClure, S.M. Causal Evidence for the Dependence of the Magnitude Effect on Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex. Scientific Reports, 8(1), 16545 (2018). 

PDF  |  Analysis Code and Data

Ballard, I.C., Miller, E., Piantadosi, S.T., Goodman, N., McClure, S.M. Beyond Reward Prediction Errors: Human Striatum Represents Rule Values During Categorization Learning. Cerebral Cortex, 19(3), 1-11 (2018).


Ballard, I. C.  Kim, B., Aydogan, G., Liatsis, A., Cohen, J.D., McClure, S.M. More Is Meaningful: The Magnitude Effect in Intertemporal Choice Depends on Self-Control. Psychological Science, 28(10), 1443–1454 (2017). 

PDF  |  Analysis Code |  OpenNeuro Dataset

Murty, V.P*., Ballard, I.C*., Adcock, R.A. Hippocampus and Prefrontal Cortex Predict Distinct Timescales of Activation in the Human Ventral Tegmental Area. Cerebral Cortex, 27(2), 1660-1669 (2017). 


Ballard, I.C., Hennigan, K., McClure, S.M. (2017) Mere Exposure: Preference for Novel Drinks Reflected in Human Ventral Tegmental Area. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 29, 793–804 (2017). 


Murty, V. P., Ballard, I. C., Macduffie, K. E., Krebs, R. M. & Adcock, R. A. Hippocampal networks habituate as novelty accumulates. Learning & Memory, 20, 229–235 (2013). 


Ballard, I.C.*, Murty, V.P.*, Carter R.M., MacInnes J.J., Huettel S.A., Adcock R.A. Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex drives mesolimbic dopaminergic regions to initiate motivated behavior. Journal of Neuroscience, 31(28), 10340-6. (2011).


Samanez-Larkin, G.R., Mata, R., Radu, P.T., Ballard, I.C., Carstensen, L.L., McClure, S.M. Age differences in striatal delay sensitivity during intertemporal choice in healthy adults. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 5, 126. (2011).


*Co-first author

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