A big question science still needs to answer is how the brain creates flexibility in mind and body. Cognitive control (also referred to as executive functions) is the ability to regulate perceptual and motor processes for goal-directed behavior in changing environment. Executive functions include general cognitive processes such as stopping, shifting and updating, and higher-order cognitive processes such as planning and reasoning. Cognitive control depends largely on the integrity of the frontostriatal circuits.

  Our overarching goal is to understand the neural mechanisms underlying flexible and adaptive thinking and behavior. We aim to characterize: (i) the role of basal ganglia (in particular the subthalamic nucleus) and (ii) the role of monoamine neurotransmitters (in particular dopamine and noradrenaline) and interaction between them in different executive functions. Our research has a special focus on patients with Parkinson's disease, who develop executive dysfunction even in early or premotor stages.

  To understand how the neural systems for cognitive control works (or not works) in healthy and diseased brains, we combine cognitive psychology with brain imaging, electrophysiology, psychopharmacology and neuromodulation in patients as well as in healthy adults. Our work will also contribute to the translation from basic research to clinical application and to the potential therapies for treating executive dysfunction in patients with Parkinson's disease.

YE Zheng,Ph.D.