Tobias Egner

Tobias Egner

Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

External Address: 
LSRC B246, Durham, NC 27708
Internal Office Address: 
Duke Box 90999, Durham, NC 27708-0999
Phone: 
919.684.1049

Overview

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.

Education & Training

  • Ph.D., University of London (United Kingdom) 2002

  • B.S., University of London (United Kingdom) 1999

Selected Grants

Neural Mechanisms of Cognitive Meta-Flexibility awarded by National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator). 2019 to 2024

Cognitive and neural mechanisms of working memory gating and updating. Control over declarative and procedural working memory. awarded by US-Israel Binational Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2017 to 2021

Mechanisms Regulating Complex Social Behavior awarded by University of Pennsylvania (Co Investigator). 2016 to 2021

Characterizing Neural Mechanisms of Cognitive Control awarded by National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator). 2010 to 2019

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

Egner, Tobias. The Wiley Handbook of Cognitive Control. Wiley-Blackwell, 2017.

Egner, T. “Brain Mapping of Control Processes.” Brain Mapping: An Encyclopedic Reference, vol. 2, 2015, pp. 581–87. Scopus, doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-397025-1.00049-X. Full Text

Reeck, C., and T. Egner. “Interactions between Attention and Emotion.” Brain Mapping: An Encyclopedic Reference, vol. 3, 2015, pp. 269–74. Scopus, doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-397025-1.00243-8. Full Text

Verschooren, Sam, et al. “More efficient shielding for internal than external attention? Evidence from asymmetrical switch costs.J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform, vol. 46, no. 9, Sept. 2020, pp. 912–25. Pubmed, doi:10.1037/xhp0000758. Full Text

Siqi-Liu, Audrey, and Tobias Egner. “Contextual Adaptation of Cognitive Flexibility is driven by Task- and Item-Level Learning.Cognitive, Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience, vol. 20, no. 4, Aug. 2020, pp. 757–82. Epmc, doi:10.3758/s13415-020-00801-9. Full Text

Sali, Anthony W., et al. “Neural Mechanisms of Strategic Adaptation in Attentional Flexibility.Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, vol. 32, no. 5, May 2020, pp. 989–1008. Epmc, doi:10.1162/jocn_a_01541. Full Text

Sali, Anthony W., and Tobias Egner. “Declarative and procedural working memory updating processes are mutually facilitative.Attention, Perception & Psychophysics, vol. 82, no. 4, May 2020, pp. 1858–71. Epmc, doi:10.3758/s13414-019-01887-1. Full Text

Bejjani, Christina, et al. “Performance feedback promotes proactive but not reactive adaptation of conflict-control.Journal of Experimental Psychology. Human Perception and Performance, vol. 46, no. 4, Apr. 2020, pp. 369–87. Epmc, doi:10.1037/xhp0000720. Full Text

Chiu, Yu-Chin, et al. “Item-specific priming of voluntary task switches.Journal of Experimental Psychology. Human Perception and Performance, vol. 46, no. 4, Apr. 2020, pp. 434–41. Epmc, doi:10.1037/xhp0000725. Full Text

Bejjani, Christina, et al. “Disentangling the Roles of Cue Visibility and Knowledge in Adjusting Cognitive Control: A Preregistered Direct Replication of the Farooqui and Manly (2015) Study.Psychological Science, vol. 31, no. 4, Apr. 2020, pp. 468–79. Epmc, doi:10.1177/0956797620904045. Full Text

King, Joseph A., et al. “Cognitive overcontrol as a trait marker in anorexia nervosa? Aberrant task- and response-set switching in remitted patients.Journal of Abnormal Psychology, vol. 128, no. 8, Nov. 2019, pp. 806–12. Epmc, doi:10.1037/abn0000476. Full Text

Toader, Andrew C., et al. “Probabilistic inferential decision-making under time pressure in rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta).J Comp Psychol, vol. 133, no. 3, Aug. 2019, pp. 380–96. Pubmed, doi:10.1037/com0000168. Full Text Open Access Copy

Braem, Senne, et al. “Measuring Adaptive Control in Conflict Tasks..” Trends in Cognitive Sciences, July 2019. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.tics.2019.07.002. Full Text

Pages

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

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.

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.

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