Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience
Education & Training
Ph.D., University of London (UK) 2002
B.S., University of London (UK) 1999
My goal is to understand how humans produce purposeful, adaptive behavior. The main ingredient for adaptive behavior, in all animals, is memory: we understand the world around us by matching the flow of incoming sensory information to previous experience. Importantly, by retrieving past episodes that resemble our present situation, we can predict what is likely to happen next, thus anticipating forthcoming stimuli and advantageous responses learned from past outcomes. Hence, I am interested in how the brain generates predictions about the world. However, unlike many other animals, humans can also produce adaptive behavior that runs counter to our learning history. For instance, we are able to switch from life-long driving on the right side of the road to driving on the left side during a trip to the UK. This capacity to use contextual information (“I’m in London”) to override habitual responses in favor of temporarily more goal-conducive actions is referred to as “cognitive control”, and it greatly enhances the flexibility of human behavior. Cognitive control requires the formation of temporary memory ensembles that link responses to stimuli in novel ways; this is often referred to as a “working memory”, and conceptualized as strategically attending to a select set of currently task-relevant representations. However, the mechanisms that govern this interplay between attention and memory remain poorly understood; our research aims to improve this situation. In my lab, we address the above questions using behavioral, computational, neuroimaging (e.g., fMRI) and neuro-stimulation (TMS) techniques.
Cognitive control, memory, attention, predictive coding, neuroimaging, neurostimulation
Whitehead, Peter S., et al. “Neural Dynamics of Cognitive Control over Working Memory Capture of Attention..” Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, vol. 31, no. 7, July 2019, pp. 1079–90. Epmc, doi:10.1162/jocn_a_01409. Full Text
Herce Castañón, Santiago, et al. “Human noise blindness drives suboptimal cognitive inference..” Nature Communications, vol. 10, no. 1, Apr. 2019. Epmc, doi:10.1038/s41467-019-09330-7. Full Text
Chiu, Yu-Chin, and Tobias Egner. “Cortical and subcortical contributions to context-control learning..” Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, vol. 99, Apr. 2019, pp. 33–41. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2019.01.019. Full Text
Yin, Shouhang, et al. “Automatic Prioritization of Self-Referential Stimuli in Working Memory..” Psychological Science, vol. 30, no. 3, Mar. 2019, pp. 415–23. Epmc, doi:10.1177/0956797618818483. Full Text
Toader, Andrew C., et al. “Probabilistic inferential decision-making under time pressure in rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta)..” Journal of Comparative Psychology (Washington, D.C. : 1983), Feb. 2019. Epmc, doi:10.1037/com0000168. Full Text Open Access Copy
Whitehead, Peter S., and Tobias Egner. “Frequency of prospective use modulates instructed task-set interference..” Journal of Experimental Psychology. Human Perception and Performance, vol. 44, no. 12, Dec. 2018, pp. 1970–80. Epmc, doi:10.1037/xhp0000586. Full Text
Braem, Senne, and Tobias Egner. “Getting a grip on cognitive flexibility..” Current Directions in Psychological Science, vol. 27, no. 6, Dec. 2018, pp. 470–76. Epmc, doi:10.1177/0963721418787475. Full Text
Tan, Jinfeng, et al. “Processing overlap-dependent distractor dilution rather than perceptual target load determines attentional selectivity..” Attention, Perception & Psychophysics, vol. 80, no. 8, Nov. 2018, pp. 2048–59. Epmc, doi:10.3758/s13414-018-1545-4. Full Text
Jiang, Jiefeng, et al. “Integrated externally and internally generated task predictions jointly guide cognitive control in prefrontal cortex..” Elife, vol. 7, Aug. 2018. Epmc, doi:10.7554/eLife.39497. Full Text
Whitehead, Peter S., and Tobias Egner. “Cognitive control over prospective task-set interference..” Journal of Experimental Psychology. Human Perception and Performance, vol. 44, no. 5, May 2018, pp. 741–55. Epmc, doi:10.1037/xhp0000493. Full Text
Dowd, E. W., et al. “Probability of guessing, not precision, changes in mixture models of visual working memory during cognitive control of attentional guidance.” Visual Cognition, vol. 22, no. 8, 2014, pp. 1027–30. Scopus, doi:10.1080/13506285.2014.960669. Full Text
Kiyonaga, Anastasia, and Tobias Egner. “RESOURCE-SHARING BETWEEN INTERNAL MAINTENANCE AND EXTERNAL SELECTION UNDERLIES THE CAPTURE OF ATTENTION BY WORKING MEMORY CONTENT.” Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, MIT PRESS, 2013, pp. 133–133.
Jiang, Jiefeng, et al. “ATTENTION AMPLIFIES OR SUPPRESSES NEURAL PREDICTION ERROR RESPONSES IN A REGIONALLY SPECIFIC MANNER.” Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, MIT PRESS, 2013, pp. 209–209.
Torres-Quesada, Maryem, et al. “DISSOCIABLE NEURAL MECHANISMS MEDIATE PROACTIVE CONTROL OVER EMOTIONAL VS. NON-EMOTIONAL CONFLICT.” Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, MIT PRESS, 2013, pp. 219–219.
Braem, Senne, et al. “AFFECTIVE MODULATION OF COGNITIVE CONTROL VARIES WITH PERFORMANCE-CONTINGENCY.” Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, MIT PRESS, 2013, pp. 37–37.
Egner, Tobias. “Conflict-driven cognitive control mechanisms in the human brain.” Neuroscience Research, vol. 65, Elsevier BV, 2009, pp. S30–S30. Crossref, doi:10.1016/j.neures.2009.09.1664. Full Text
Neural Mechanisms of Cognitive Meta-Flexibility awarded by National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator). 2019 to 2024
Mechanisms Regulating Complex Social Behavior awarded by University of Pennsylvania (Co Investigator). 2016 to 2020
Characterizing Neural Mechanisms of Cognitive Control awarded by National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator). 2010 to 2019
Cognitive and neural mechanisms of working memory gating and updating awarded by US-Israel Binational Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2017 to 2019
Thrust 1: Biophysical Modeling and Satisficing Control Strategies as Derived from Quantification of Primate Brain Activ awarded by Office of Naval Research (Co-Principal Investigator). 2013 to 2018
Expectation and Attention in Visual Cognition awarded by National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator). 2013 to 2018
A Compute Cluster for Brain Imaging and Analysis awarded by National Institutes of Health (Major User). 2016 to 2017
Effects of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation on Neurons in Behaving Primates awarded by National Institutes of Health (Co Investigator). 2012 to 2014
Precision Targeting of fMRI-Guided TMS Using a Robotic Arm System awarded by National Institutes of Health (Investigator). 2010 to 2011