My work combines neuroscience with computational psychiatry to study the cognitive and neural mechanisms that underlie psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety.
I’m a neuroscientist with a clinical background, interested in how the brain guides motivated effortful behaviour, decides which actions are worth pursuing, and boosts behaviour towards success. These mechanisms are impaired in psychiatric disorders (such as depression) and sub-clinical conditions (such as burnout). I study how alteration of brain circuits driving motivation and effort leads to pathology. I use functional MRI, computational modelling and Artificial Intelligence approaches, experimental measures of behaviour, physiology, neurostimulation, and pharmacology.
I am a member of the https://www.winrepo.org/ initiative, to improve gender balance at conferences, and a member of the Donders Diversity and Sustainable science initiative. I am engaged in outreach through several online platforms and as editor in chief of https://it.in-mind.org/.
Silvestrini, N., Berry, A., Musslick, S., Vassena E. (In press). An integrative effort: Bridging motivational intensity theory and recent neurocomputational and neuronal models of effort ad control allocation. Psychological Review
Otto, A.R., Braem, S., Silvetti M., Vassena E (in press). Is the juice worth the squeeze? Learning the marginal value of mental effort over time. Journal of experimental psychology General.
Vassena, E., Deraeve, J. & Alexander, W. (2020). Surprise, value and control in anterior cingulate cortex during speeded decision-making. Nature Human Behaviour, 4 (4), 412-422
Otto, A.R. & Vassena, E. (2021). It’s all relative: Reward-induced cognitive control modulation depends on context. Journal of Experimental Psychology – General, 150 (2), 306-313.
Brolsma, S.C.A., Vassena, E., Vrijsen, J.N., Sescousse, G.T., Collard, R.M., Eijndhoven, P.F. van, Schene, A.H. & Cools, R. (2021). Negative learning bias in depression revisited: Enhanced neural response to surprising reward across psychiatric disorders. Biological Psychiatry : Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, 6 (3), 280-289.
Vassena, E., Holroyd, C.B. & Alexander, W.H. (2017). Computational models of anterior cingulate cortex: At the crossroads between prediction and effort. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 11:316.