Karim N’Diaye

Neuroscientist & experimental psychologist, Ph.D.
Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle épinière (UPMC / INSERM U1127 / CNRS UMR7225)
Bur. 3.029, Batient ICM, 47 bd de l’Hôpital F-75013 Paris
+33 (0)1 57 27 43 98
MeetMe requests: doodle.com/kndiaye

Scientific interests:

  • Metacognition, introspection & self-monitoring;
  • Pathophysiology of psychiatric disorders linked to basal ganglia dysfunctions, in particular compulsive behaviors (OCD);
  • Therapeutical mechanisms in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Mindfulness-Based Therapy.
  • Evolutionary cognitive neuroscience of social processes and emotions;

Techniques used:

  • Human behavioral experiments;
  • Brain Imaging: Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) & Functional MRI;
  • Human electrophysiology: electroencephalography (EEG), magnetoencephalography (MEG), local field potentials (LFP).

Keywords: metacognition, emotion, fMRI, deep brain stimulation, working memory, prefrontal cortex, basal ganglia

Scientific agenda

My research explores the neurocognitive processes involved in self-representation and self-evaluation through a wide range of techniques and approaches, focusing in particular on the neural bases of metacognition, i.e., the psychological processes that enable one to monitor and regulate one’s own cognitive activity, e.g. the confidence one has in a decision just-made and/or the action one may take to assuage one’s doubts. Despite a wealth of behavioral psychology and psychophysics research, the brain mechanisms participating to metacognition have only recently garnered interest (Fleming et al., 2012; Dehaene, 2011). Concurrently, metacognitive processes have also been implicated in psychopathological models of mental disorders (Wells, 1995) and in evolutionary theory of human cognition (Carruthers, 2008). I explore these issues through experimental studies combining behavioral and neurofunctional methodologies (fMRI, local field potentials, EEG/MEG) in healthy participants as well as neurological and psychiatric patients treated with deep-brain stimulation or other types of interventions (e.g. psychotherapy).

In my scientific work, I primarily focus on the role of cortical regions (encompassing the anterior cingulate, orbitofrontal, ventro-medial and rostral prefrontal cortices) along with the basal ganglia for these structures pertain to functional cortico-subcortical loops that have been associated with performance-monitoring and behavioral control. One central issue pertains to the mechanisms through which metacognitive information might be derived from ongoing neural activity to allow flexible behavior and adaptive decision-making, in laboratory tasks – e.g. when deciding if enough sensory evidence has been collected to decide whether one is seeing leftward or rightward motion in a random dot displays – as well as in more ecological experimental settings, such as when confronting self-confidence with external sources of evidence (from feedback or from other individuals).

With the BEBG team, I take benefit of clinical trials conducted around deep-brain stimulation to explore possible dysfunctions of metacognitive processes and their neuro-behavioral correlates in neuropsychiatric disorders but also to test the causal role of targeted structures, e.g. the subthalamic nucleus (STN). Obsessive-compulsive disorder which is characterized by “pathological doubt” thus represents a potent psychopathological model. For example, I developed a perceptual decision task which incorporates confidence-ratings that are used to derive quantitative measures of introspective monitoring in OCD patients over the course of a clinical-trial of STN-DBS. This allows assessing the possible role of dysfunctional metacognition in the etiology of the disease and its recovering through subthalamic stimulation. This line of research also participate in the identification of transnosographic behavioral phenotypes, such as compulsivity (seen in OCD but also in drug addiction) that appears associated with blunted introspective awareness of one’s motivational processes.

I also participate to translational research projects making use of animal models of human normal and pathological behaviors. In this context, we intent to develop behavioral paradigms that can be adapted to animals so as to investigate common patterns in the behavior, the neural bases and the effects of neurostimulation across species.

Finally, I am interested in social cognitive processes involved in other- vs. self-monitoring. Through connections with philosophers and anthropologists, I am interested in casting this research in a broader perspective that contribute to the current debate on the mechanisms of mind-reading and the evolution of human cognition and self-consciousness.