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Sonia Bishop

Chair of Psychology

I am a computational clinical and experimental psychologist and neuroscientist. I use a combination of computational modelling, functional neuroimaging and experimental methods to investigate altered cognitive and brain function in anxiety and depression. I trained at Oxford University (BA in Experimental Psychology), the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London (PhD in clinical psychology), Cambridge University and the MRC CBU (postdoc) and held a tenured faculty position at UC Berkeley before coming to Trinity College Dublin.


 I studied Experimental Psychology at Oxford University. After a short interview exploring Criminology (MPhil, Cambridge University), including such fascinating topics as participant observer studies of social deviance, I decided to return to the experimental cognitive approach that I had been given rigorous grounding in at Oxford. I worked as a RA for two years with Professors John Duncan and Dorothy Bishop (no relation) at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit (then the MRC Applied Psychology Unit) expanding my knowledge of cognitive psychology. To this I added doctoral training in clinical psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry, London, under the mentorship of Professor William Yule.

Returning to the MRC CBU to postdoc with John Duncan, I was attracted by the newly developing discipline of cognitive neuroscience and by fMRI as a research tool. During this period I received training in functional magnetic resonance imaging and applied models from the cognitive neuroscience literature on attention to address the impact of trait differences in anxiety upon the frontal-amygdala circuitry implicated in attentional control over threat. Interspersed with my work at the CBU, I spent periods of time in the US working with Martha Farah, Jonathan Cohen, and Jim Haxby at U Penn and Princeton University and a stint in the genetics lab of John Fossella (now at Mount Sinai Department of Psychiatry) before returning to take up a MRC Career Development Award at Cambridge University’s Department of Experimental Psychology, under the mentorship of Trevor Robbins. 

Since 2008, I have been an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at UC Berkeley. Since 2011, I have been lucky enough to additionally take up an ERC Consolidating Grant held at fMRIB within the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences. This has enabled me to extend my existing research on trait vulnerability to anxiety into work with patients with Anxiety and Depressive Disorders. Collaborations with Professors Steve Smith and Tim Behrens have also enabled me to integrate new fMRI methods (e.g. multivariate hierarchical clustering of resting state data) and computational approaches (e.g. Bayesian modeling of decision making) into my group’s research program.

As a general ethos, I have long been interested in trying to bring the rigor of experimental design from the cognitive literature together with recent imaging methods and an individual differences approach to study questions regarding the neural mechanisms involved in the interface of cognitive and emotional processing. Affective Cognitive Neuroscience is now well recognized as a discipline and I believe that the next important step will be to integrate computational approaches to enable ‘Computational Human Affective Neuroscience and Psychiatry’ to take off in the way that Computational Neuroscience has done in recent years. 


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