Research interests

Brain state, arousal and neural noise

The way that neural computations give rise to behavior is shaped by ever-fluctuating internal states. These states (such as arousal, fear, stress, hunger, motivation, engagement, or drowsiness) are characterized by spontaneous neural dynamics that arise independent of task demands. How can we best quantify such internal states, and how do they arise from neural dynamics? We investigate these questions in multiple mammalian species (mice and humans), using large-scale neural recordings, pupillometry and behavioral state quantification.

See Urai et al. 2017; Colizoli et al. 2018; Bergt, Urai et al. 2018; de Gee et al. 2020; Ashwood et al. 2021

Individual differences and ageing


Individuals can make remarkably different choices when faced with the same situation. What computational and neural mechanisms underlie these idiosyncrasies? Ongoing work (funded by an NWO Veni grant) focuses on the ways in which neural and behavioral noise change with age.

See Urai et al. 2019; Musall, Urai et al. 2019

Choice-induced biases in perceptual decision-making

How do we use sensory information from our environment to make decisions about the world around us? Perceptual decisions tend to be affected by decisions made previously, even when people know that using past observations will not help them perform better. We investigate the flexibility of these choice biases and the factors that modulate them, as well as the precise effects that previous choices have on decision dynamics and their neural correlates.

See Braun et al. 2018; Talluri, Urai et al. 2018; Urai et al. 2019; Lak et al. 2020; Urai & Donner 2021

Climate action & climate psychology

Climate change is the most urgent problem currently facing humanity – including a subset who call themselves (neuro)scientists. While many academics still consider (political) activism far outside their comfort zone, the broader scientific community is slowly waking up to the urgency of the situation and the role we can play as a community. We are committed to speaking up about the climate crisis, think about ways in which science itself can decarbonize, and include sustainability in our teaching.

See Adam et al. 2020; Rae et al. 2021; blog

Other things we care about

Methods for neurophysiology and animal behavior: Urai et al. 2020, Urai et al. 2022

Team science, open science and scientific practice: IBL 2018; IBL et al. 2021; VU Data Conversations

(Gender) diversity and inclusion: blog