Principal Investigator

null I received my Ph.D. from the University of Illinois in 1995, and spent time as a postdoc at Stanford University and a faculty member at the MGH-NMR Center/Harvard Medical School before moving to UCLA in 2002. In 2009 I moved to the University of Texas at Austin to become Director of the Imaging Research Center and Professor of Psychology and Neurobiology.  My research interests are very generally centered around the questions of how new skills are acquired, how existing skills are expressed, and how people exert executive control during thought and behavior. We examine these questions using functional brain imaging techniques, particularly functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). I am also interested in conceptual and methodological issues surrounding the relation between cognitive and neural processes. Our research is strongly focused on translation of basic cognitive neuroscience into the clinical domain, with collaborations on studies of schizophrenia, ADHD, Tourette Syndrome, and drug addiction.

Russell A. Poldrack

Russ’ Curriculum Vitae My Academic Family Tree Personal blog




null I received my PhD in Biostatistics from the University of Michigan in 2006, where I worked with Tom Nichols on projects involving group BOLD fMRI data analysis as well as single subject Arterial Spin Labeling fMRI. My current focus is on developing a tool that will calculate power for group fMRI experiments, which will be helpful in designing future experiments.

Jeanette Mumford




null I received my PhD from Stony Brook University in 2008, where I worked with Turhan Canli. My dissertation research focused on the neurogenetic bases of impulsivity, specifically response inhibition, in healthy adults. Working with both the Poldrack Lab at UT and Nelson Freimer’s Neurobehavioral Genetics lab at UCLA, I am interested in integrating neuroimaging and genetics to better understand cognitive control, particularly in the context of neuropsychiatric disorders. I am heavily involved in research that is part of the Consortium for Neuropsychiatric Phenomics at UCLA.

Eliza Congdon

null I received my PhD in Neuroscience and Cognitive Sciences from the University of Maryland in 2011, under the supervision of Nathan Fox. My research interests are broadly centered around understanding how individuals use information about punishment and reward to guide behavior, and how the neural circuitry involved in these processes changes across development.

Sarah Helfinstein

DSC_0177 I am interested in understanding how humans make decisions involving different types of rewards and characterizing the neural mechanisms underlying these processes. Previously, I used reinforcement learning models to study the role of the striatum in simple decision making in healthy individuals. Then I investigated how these learning signals are affected by the dopaminergic dysfunction in Parkinson’s disease patients. Recently, I have been focusing on two lines of research. First, I am examining risky decision-making with a specific focus on relating laboratory tasks to to real-world risk-taking. Second, I have been developing new paradigms to influence choices and preferences via automatic mechanisms, and using fMRI to study how these affect value-related circuitry in the brain. My goal is to understand the neural mechanisms that are involved in overcoming maladaptive habitual behaviors and how we can encourage the adoption of new ones.

Tom Schonberg

 Curriculum Vitae Publications
sanmikoyejo_image My research is on the the development and analysis of methods for encoding and extracting structure in high dimensional scientific data, particularly neuroimaging and genetics data. I graduated from the university of Texas at Austin with a PhD in Electrical Engineering advised by Joydeep Ghosh (May 2013). My thesis was titled “Constrained relative entropy minimization with applications to multitask learning”.

Sanmi Koyejo

 Personal website



Graduate Students

null I am a graduate student in the Neuroscience (INS) program. I graduated in 2006 with an Sc.B. from Brown University. I then joined Dr. Brad Dickerson’s neuroimaging lab at MGH in Boston where we used structural MRI to identify the anatomic effects of aging and neurodegenerative disease. In the Poldrack lab, I am interested in investigating ways to influence human behavior during decision making using behavioral paradigms and fMRI.

Akram Bakkour

null I am a graduate student in cognitive neuroscience area at UT-Austin. My general research interest is how people make decisions in various contexts. I got my master degree in visual neuroscience at National Taiwan University, where I studied facial expression classification with psychophysics models. I hope to combine mathematical models and fMRI techniques to explore the neural mechanisms of perceptual, economic, and social decision-making in the Poldrack lab.

Mei-Yen Chen


null I am a graduate student in the Institute for Neuroscience doctoral program. My research is presently focused on the interaction of effort costs and reward in decisions. I previously investigated neural representation of complex objects in Leslie Ungerleider’s laboratory at the NIMH and the role of nucleus accumbens in appetitive behavior at Macalester College. I received a B.A. in Cognitive and Neuroscience Studies from Macalester in 2007.

Nick Malecek



null I am currently a research assistant in the Poldrack Lab. I graduated from Portland State University in 2007 with a B.S. in Psychology and a B.S. in General Sciences. After receiving my degree, I worked for two years as a research assistant at Oregon Health and Science University where we studied the behavioral and cognitive effects of aging.  Currently, I am enrolled in an M.S. program for Nutrition and Functional Medicine.  My goals are to become a nutritional counselor and continue in research, studying the effects of nutrition and its role in chronic inflammation.

Brenda Gregory


null I am a Research Assistant in the Poldrack Lab, working under the Behavioral Maintenance grant. I graduated from Georgia State University in 2009 with a B.S. in biology, and a neurobiology concentration. As an undergraduate, I studied the neural correlates of gender discrimination. After graduation, I studied the components of emotion recognition in children on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and worked on a project targeting the early detection of ASD within toddlers.

Ashleigh M. Hover


Undergraduate RAs

AJ Elumn

I am a neurobiology major and undergraduate research assistant at the Poldrack Lab, where I work with Mei-Yen administering her perceptual decision-making experiments.  I am particularly interested in the physics and operation of non-invasive imaging techniques (such as MRI), which are frequently used in Mei-Yen’s experiments.  Upon graduation, I intend to go to medical school where I hope to apply what I’ve learned about MRI to other contexts.


Lakshya Trivedi

I will be graduating from UT in Spring 2014 with a Neuroscience degree.  I’ve been working as an RA in the Poldrack Lab since March 2012, and have loved my time here. I’ve gained valuable insight into the ups and downs that are  a part of scientific research, and have certainly matured and grown as a undergrad here. After graduating I will be taking the year off, and will use the time to apply for medical school as well as travel abroad. There are many specialties that are appealing to me, but pediatrics is currently at the top of the list. I’d prefer to practice in a lower income community, but currently am focused on taking my MCAT and applying.


Jacy Anthis

I am a currently finishing my undergraduate degree in neuroscience with a minor in economics and certificate in Statistics and Scientific Computing.  In the Poldrack Lab, I work with Sarah Helfinstein on neurobehavioral studies of risk-taking behavior.  I am also interested in affective neuroscience, including depression and the capacity of suffering in non-human animals.  I also have interests in finance and philosophy.  I am involved in a vibrant social movement called “Effect Altruism.”

Sarah Qureshy

I am a cell and molecular biology major and an undergraduate research assistant for the Poldrack Lab.  I run subjects for the studies done by the lab and assist others during studies with noninvasive imaging.  I am broadly interested in cognition, memory, and neural development, and I plan to attend either graduate or pre-professional school in the near future.

Michelle Dunn


I am an undergraduate dual degree major in Neuroscience and Plan II Liberal Arts.  I started working in the Poldrack Lab in the summer of 2013 and have since assisted with an fMRI database as well as neurobehavioral experiments.  I am interested in the fields of memory, learning, motor control, and biomechanics.