The IP group focuses on understanding mechanisms underlying impulsivity and compulsivity and optimizing neuromodulation therapeutic outcomes for addictions and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Neurotech and psychedelics
Professor Valerie Voon heads our Interventional Neuropsychiatry group. She holds professorships across the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge and the Institute of Science and Technology for Brain-Inspired Intelligence at Fudan University in Shanghai, China. She runs coordinated research groups across both sites.
Our approach is two-fold: We ask how we understand self-control and repetitive behaviours, also known as impulsivity and compulsivity. We are particularly interested in the impact of emotion on impulsive behaviours. These constructs are relevant to our daily decisions and are impaired across psychiatric disorders. We develop and validate new cognitive tasks to assess these processes testing in online normative populations, clinical populations and with neuroimaging and physiology. We focus on identifying modifiable biomarkers in addictions and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
The second theme focuses on interventional psychiatry. Using surgical and non-invasive neuromodulation, we ask how we can improve and modify decision-making and psychiatric symptoms aiming towards intelligent stimulation. More recently we have extended into research on psychedelics such as ketamine and psilocybin. Our ultimate aim is to optimize therapeutic outcomes for psychiatric disorders.
The group uses a multimodal approach including cognitive neuroscience, computational modelling, neuroimaging, neurophysiology, neuromodulation, pharmacological challenges and both hypothesis-driven and data-driven approaches. We work closely with multiple collaborators in China. I head a multicentre deep brain stimulation study for addictions in the United Kingdom.
Professor Valerie Voon
I use intracranial neurophysiological recordings acquired from patients undergoing deep brain stimulation therapy and Stereo-EEG monitoring to study human brain functions and their relevance to understanding and treating psychiatric symptoms. Such cases give us the rare opportunity to record and stimulate neural activity and connectivity patterns directly in the human brain with the exquisite spatial and temporal resolution, which no other neuroimaging method can achieve individually. I’m responsible for designing and programming behavioural tasks to isolate processes of interest and analyse the local field potentials. This allows for identifying biomarkers that can be targeted with neuromodulation techniques to examine their causal role and potential therapeutic benefit. To this end, I have recently begun to focus on using these recordings with brain-computer interfaces to control activity patterns in real-time using neurofeedback and closed-loop stimulation.
Ying investigates the brain mechanisms underlying addiction, specifically alcohol use and smoking, by analysing brain imaging data from the UK Biobank. Through her studies, she aims to identify potential biomarkers for brain stimulation-based clinical intervention. Ying received her PhD in Psychology from the University of Manchester. She studied brain connectivity and behaviour relationships in language and cognitive domains with stroke patients under Professor Matt Lambon Ralph (main) and Dr Ajay Halai. Her research utilises different brain imaging modalities, such as resting-state and task fMRI, DWI, and T1, along with machine learning algorithms and graph theory measures, to build models that predict brain and behaviour relationships.
I have primarily been trained and worked as a medical doctor (MBBS) with a subsequent PhD in Neurosciences from QIMR Berghofer/The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.
I utilise neuroimaging (LFPs, fMRI) and neuromodulation tools (TMS) to understand the functioning of key brain regions, their interactions, and meso/macroscale brain dynamics. I also specialise in psychophysiological measures (heart rate and skin conductance) and especially facial thermal imaging having developed methods for its analyses. Using traditional task paradigms as well as naturalistic ones such as movies, overall, these streams of research form the basis for my investigations on emotions, interoception, their neurobiological underpinnings, as well as their breakdown in affective disorders and anxiety disorders including OCD.
Academic Clinical Fellow
Hailun Cui is a PhD student in the Voon lab. She is interested in the cognitive, behavioural, and functional modification of invasive and non-invasive brain stimulation (e.g., transcranial magnetic stimulation) for psychiatric disorders. Her current research studies the psychological and neurofunctional changes underlying the symptomatic relief of neurosurgery or brain stimulation in treatment-resistant obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and depression. Before joining the Voon lab in Cambridge, she studied medicine. She undertook her Master’s training in clinical neurology at the Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Medicine, where she researched cognitive and neurofunctional impairment in Alzheimer’s disease.
Samantha Sallie is a 4th year PhD student in the Voon lab. In addition to conducting research at the University of Cambridge Department of Psychiatry into the neuropsychological mechanisms of resilience to trauma, she previously trained in statistics and philosophy of science at the University of Pennsylvania and the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her current research focuses on detecting and modulating neural networks governing impulsive and compulsive features in Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) via both invasive and non-invasive brain stimulation approaches. In the future, she hopes to pair cognitive tasks and neurostimulation techniques to assess mood-based impulsivity to inform more biologically driven clinical treatments of addiction disorders.
Violeta Casero is a PhD student in the Voon lab. She is interested in combining invasive and non-invasive stimulation methods to understand the neural basis of neuropsychiatric disorders. Violeta’s research aims to investigate the effects of repetitive paired associative stimulation on response inhibition using functional MRI. She is currently working on local field potential analysis from her intracranial sEEG work on emotional influences on reinforcement learning, risk-taking and inhibition in prefrontal OFC and amygdala regions, following the development of her online tasks. Her online work investigates reinforcement learning changes in reward value in the context of negative affect using computational modelling predictions. Violeta holds a degree in Biomedical Sciences from Middlesex University in addition to a master’s in Biotechnology from Imperial College and an MPhil in Medical Science (Psychiatry) from the University of Cambridge.
Ilona Myllyniemi is a 1st year PhD student in the Voon lab. Before joining the lab, she completed her MA (Hons) at the University of Edinburgh. She is interested in the link between uncertainty/ambiguity and compulsive behaviours. Her current research studies the impact and efficacy of different interventions for reducing alcohol consumption in at-risk heavy drinkers. In addition to that, she is using techniques such as LFP analysis to explore the processing of uncertainty and its link to compulsive behaviour. Her main interests revolve around understanding how uncertainty is processed in the brain and how that impacts human behaviour and decision-making.
Yijie Zhao has a PhD degree in psychology and cognitive neuroscience. She is working as a post-doctoral fellow in the group. Her research interests mainly focus on the optimization of non-invasive neuromodulation techniques in order to improve symptoms and cognitive functions of psychiatric disorders such as OCD, depression and addiction.
Linbin Wang received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Zhejiang University and his Masters’s degree in cognitive neuroscience from East China Normal University. He worked as
a research assistant in the Department of Functional Neurosurgery, Ruijin Hospital from
2017 to 2020. He is now a PhD student at ISTBI, Fudan University, supervised by Prof.
Valerie Voon. He focuses on the electrophysiological mechanisms of decision-making behaviours in patients with Parkinson’s disease and the therapeutic role of neuromodulation (e.g., deep brain stimulation) on neuropsychiatric symptoms in PD patients.
- Manssuer L, Wang L, Ding Q, Li J, Zhang Y, Zhang C, Hallett M, Li D, Sun B, Voon V.
Subthalamic Oscillatory Activity of Reward and Loss Processing Using the Monetary
Incentive Delay Task in Parkinson’s Disease. Neuromodulation. 2023 Feb;26(2):414-423.
- Wang L, Zhu R, Pan Y, Huang P, Tan Y, Fang B, Liu J, Li D. Effects of High Cervical
Spinal Cord Stimulation on Gait Disturbance and Dysarthropneumophonia in Parkinson’s
Disease and Parkinson Variant of Multiple System Atrophy: A Case Series. Brain Sci.
2022 Sep 10;12(9):1222.
- Mandali A, Manssuer L, Zhao Y, Zhang C, Wang L, Ding Q, Pan Y, Li D, Sun B, Voon
V. Acute Time-Locked Alpha Frequency Subthalamic Stimulation Reduces Negative
Emotional Bias in Parkinson’s Disease. Biol Psychiatry Cogn Neurosci Neuroimaging.
- Zhang C, Wang L, Wei H, et al. Combined Unilateral STN and Contralateral GPi DBS
for Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease: A Pilot Study of Symptom-Tailored Stimulation.
- Pan Y, Wang L, Zhang Y, et al. Deep Brain Stimulation of the Internal Globus Pallidus
Improves Response Initiation and Proactive Inhibition in Patients with Parkinson’s
Disease. Front Psychol. 2018
Yingying Zhang completed her bachelor’s degree in applied psychology at Zhejiang Sci-tech University in 2014 and a Masters’s degree in cognitive neuroscience at East China Normal University in 2017. She worked as a research assistant at the Department of Functional
Neurosurgery in Ruijin Hospital from June 2017 to July 2022. She has been a PhD student with Prof. Valerie Voon at ISTBI, Fudan University since August 2022. Her interests mainly focus on exploring the treatment efficacy and underlying mechanisms of deep brain stimulation for major depressive disorder using electrophysiological techniques.
I majored in biomedical engineering at the Institute of Science and Technology for Brain-Inspired Intelligence in Fudan University. With a background of psychology, I am interested in understanding psychiatry from a neurocognitive perspective. My current research focuses on targeting psychiatric symptoms and cognitive processes with transcranial ultrasound stimulation to unravel the underlying neural mechanism.
My motto: Music and cats heal everything.
Ruiqin Chen is now the Research Assistant in Valerie’s Group. She was granted a degree of Bachelor of Medicine by Fudan University, and obtained a Master of Science for Research in Integrative Neuroscience with Merit from the University of Edinburgh. Her interest focuses on improving the treatment of psychological disorders using non-invasive neuromodulation such as TMS, TES and understanding cognitive and neurofunctional changes after stimulation. She is now working on an OCD project in cooperation with Zhongshan Hospital.
Yashu Feng received her undergraduate degree in Psychology at Mount Holyoke College and her MRes degree in Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London.
Yashu is now working as a Research Assistant with Professor Valerie Voon. She is mainly responsible for Stereoelectroencephalography (sEEG) and Major Depressive Disorder Deep Brain Stimulation testing in Ruijin Hospital. She is interested in non-invasive neuromodulation (e.g. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) for depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder patients. She is also interested in and intracranial activities of reward processing and emotion processing.