Professor in Decision Neuroscience
Research in the O’Connell lab is seeking to understand the neural mechanisms underpinning high-level cognition. This work comprises both basic and translational research and employs a range of psychophysiological techniques including EEG, fMRI, autonomic system measurement and transcranial stimulation. Our primary research interests include perceptual decision making, performance monitoring, and attention.
PERCEPTUAL DECISION MAKING
A central challenge for the field of neuroscience is understanding how our brains allow us to make reliable categorical decisions from the noisy sensory information they receive. In collaboration with Simon Kelly of University College Dublin, we have devised a number of novel paradigms that make it possible to isolate and continuously track the key information processing stages intervening between sensation and action during simple perceptual decisions in discrete human brain signals (see O’Connell, Dockree & Kelly, 2012). These techniques allow us to explore the mechanisms that influence the timing and accuracy of perceptual decision making in both clinical (e.g. mild cognitive impairment, ADHD) and non-clinical populations. We recently established an exciting multi-site collaboration with Michael Shadlen (Columbia University), Stephan Bickel (Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine), Simon Kelly (University College Dublin) and KongFatt Wong-Lin (University of Ulster) which will conduct complementary investigations in human and non-human primates to pinpoint the neural architecture underlying decisions that are abstracted from movement.
The brain possesses specialized systems for continually monitoring our performance and for adjusting our behaviour if an error is detected. However, occasionally this monitoring system fails us and an error can go unnoticed. Such failures of self-awareness can cause significant functional impairment in a range of clinical populations. Our group is currently exploring the neural processes that determine whether or not a performance error will enter consciousness and how the brain enables us to form representations of choice confidence (e.g. Murphy et al 2015).
Our research is also directed toward understanding how, why and when attention levels fluctuate. Lapses of attention are a leading cause of human error and a major focus of our work has been to develop laboratory tests that mimic real life situations and make it possible to continuously track neural signatures of spatial and non-spatial attention over time. In collaboration with Mark Bellgrove of Monash University, we are utilizing pharmacological and genetic analysis techniques to probe the neurochemical influences on visuospatial and vigilant attention.
O'Connell, R. G., Dockree, P. M., & Kelly, S. P. (2012). A supramodal accumulation-to-bound signal that determines perceptual decisions in humans. Nature neuroscience, 15(12), 1729-1735. [PDF]
O'Connell, R. G., Dockree, P. M., Bellgrove, M. A., Kelly, S. P., Hester, R., Garavan, H., ... & Foxe, J. J. (2007). The role of cingulate cortex in the detection of errors with and without awareness: a high‐density electrical mapping study. European Journal of Neuroscience, 25(8), 2571-2579. [PDF]
O'Connell, R. G., Dockree, P. M., Robertson, I. H., Bellgrove, M. A., Foxe, J. J., & Kelly, S. P. (2009). Uncovering the neural signature of lapsing attention: electrophysiological signals predict errors up to 20 s before they occur. Journal of Neuroscience, 29(26), 8604-8611. [PDF]
You can find more of Redmond's publications here.