Daniela Muoz Lopez

Analyzing the Association Between Impulsivity and Reinforcement Learning

Previous research has identified reinforcement learning (RL) as a cognitive process that uses rewards to help us learn which actions will yield better results over time. This process is influenced by decision making which allows us to maximize our rewards and minimize our punishments. The neural aspects of RL are well studied and can be linked to various brain regions such as the prefrontal and orbitofrontal cortex. Currently, it is unknown whether RL is impacted by impulsivity. Impulsivity plays a major role in the understanding of personality traits and refers to actions that are poorly thought out or expressed in an untimely matter. Those with impulsive traits may experience difficulty inhibiting automatic responses; this is thought to interfere with goal driven behavior and is associated with decreased higher order activity such as learning. My research focuses on analyzing the potential association between impulsivity and reinforcement learning and understanding the implications this may have on daily life. Furthermore, I will propose a computational model that will explain the relationship between these two variables.

Message to Sponsor

Having the incredible opportunity to be a SURF scholar this summer allowed me to dive deep into my interests. As a fellow, I was able to learn about the methods and gain the skills necessary to conduct a research project from scratch. This experience led me to determine that I want to pursue a PhD and continue doing research of my own. Being able to think critically about my field to come up with my own question and put together a project that could effectively answer this question made me realize that I do have what it takes to be a research scientist. Following this experience, my next steps are to continue doing research within the field of psychology. Thank you to my SURF donor for providing me with the amazing opportunity to conduct my own study!
  • Major: Psychology
  • Sponsor: Anonymous Donor
  • Mentor: Anne Collins