Dr Ilvana Dzafic
In my research, I use neuroimaging techniques to study the brain and behaviour in the healthy population and across different mental health conditions. The motivation behind my research is to understand why some people experience symptoms (such as psychosis) and to improve diagnostic methods and therapies. One of my goals is to find objective, biological markers that can aid in more precise diagnoses. This can hopefully result in personalised treatments based on the diagnosis. Another goal is for my research findings to inform device-based neuromodulation therapies.
Human neuroimaging and imaging genetics
My research applies human neuroimaging methods, such as Electroencephalography (EEG), functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and diffusion-weighted Magnetic Resonance Imaging (DW-MRI) to study the brain in healthy individuals and people with clinical disorders, such as schizophrenia. I am also interested to investigate the interaction between brain and genes using the polygenic risk model.
Computational modelling of brain and behaviour
In my research I employ modelling techniques, such as Dynamic Causal Modelling, to investigate the neural dynamics underlying psychotic experiences. I am also interested in investigating behaviour in people across the psychosis continuum using the Hierarchical Gaussian Filter. These techniques are based on the Predictive Coding model of the brain as an inference machine, which continually generates and updates predictive models of the world based on prior expectations and sensory experience.
Social cognition and regularity learning across the psychosis continuum
People with schizophrenia can have impaired social cognition, which is robustly associated with functional outcome. Social cognition involves interpreting the intentions and dispositions of others and using this knowledge to guide behaviour in social interactions. In my research, I am interested in the processes that underlie social cognitive impairment in schizophrenia.
One process that may be impaired during social cognition is regularity learning. Regularity learning ability is used to learn the statistics of the environment and form internal models about others and the world. I am exploring if regularity learning is impaired across the psychosis continuum, rendering the environment chaotic and surprising and if this leads to delusional beliefs and precepts.