Roshan Cools is Professor of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry at the department of psychiatry of the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre and principal investigator at the Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging. Her area of research is human cognitive neuropsychiatry. More specifically, she studies the role of the major ascending neuromodulators (e.g. dopamine and serotonin) in the cognitive and motivational control of decision making, with the ultimate aim to advance our understanding and treatment of a wide range of neuropsychiatric disorders (e.g. impulse control problems, ADHD and Parkinson’s disease). To this end, she combines cognitive science, psychopharmacology, functional and chemical neuroimaging, TMS and patient research.
Chemistry of the Adaptive Mind
Our environment is changing constantly, and we are bombarded with new information all the time. How do we deal with this information overload? A traditional answer is that we need cognitive control, focused attention, and optimal prefrontal cortex function to resist the many distractions and temptations around us. Many of us take (dopaminergic) drugs, like Ritalin, to enhance such functions. The key challenge we face, however, is not to know how to exert cognitive control, but rather to know whether and when to exert it. After all, only some of the information that reaches us is irrelevant and needs to be suppressed. In fact, much new input is highly relevant and requires us to flexibly update our thoughts and our actions. My talk will address the key open question whether brain chemicals like dopamine (that is the key ingredient of so-alled smartdrugs) help or hurt this meta-level ability to arbitrate between cognitive focus and flexibility.