The Adaptive Recruitment and Regulation of Cognitive Control: From Basic Mechanisms to Mental Health
Cognitive control enables humans to implement and maintain intentions, act based on their internal goals and anticipated future needs (even in the face of competing response tendencies), and exhibit voluntary, situation-appropriate behavior. Efficient action control requires a flexible adjustment of cognitive control to changing environmental demands, balancing antagonistic control requirements. To understand how this dynamic regulation of cognitive control is achieved and maintained, my research has been centered around three core questions: (1) What are the mechanisms underlying the flexible adjustment of cognitive control?; (2) How do mental states and physiological parameters (e.g., acute stress and stress hormone levels) affect the recruitment and regulation of cognitive control?; and (3) What is the role of control recruitment biases in disease? To address these questions, I use cross-disciplinary methodology and combine studies in healthy individuals with targeted investigations of selected clinical populations characterized by malleable control. Following up on this work, I aim to establish a research program to: (1) provide novel approaches for augmenting cognitive control and intentional behavior in challenging external conditions or internal states and (2) empower individuals to maintain flexible voluntary control over their actions and decisions, fostering mental health and well-being.