The Translational Cognitive Neuroscience of Affective Disorders Lab is based at the Centre for Affective Disorders at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King's College London. We are further strongly connected with the D'Or Institute for Research and Education in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). This non-institutional website is currently developed in addition to the official university website to allow more detailed information including personal views and more frequent updates on our work. All contents can be freely used for non-commercial purposes if appropriately cited unless stated otherwise or protected by third-party copyrights.

We aim at bridging important gaps between basic cognitive neuroscience and the phenomenological psychopathology of affective disorders and disturbances. Phenomenological psychopathology is the description of unusual subjective experiences or behaviours that cause suffering of individuals who have those experiences or of the people they interact with. The methodological framework for our research has been labelled "Translational Cognitive Neuroscience" and is described in more detail in Zahn (2010, see pre-print under Publications). 


Our long-term aim is to use translational cognitive neuroscience models of affective disorders to develop novel approaches to their nosology, prevention, and treatment.

Affective disorders comprise both those neuropsychiatric conditions that are associated with obvious changes of brain structure (organic affective disorders) as well as those that may only be associated with subtle structural changes (endogenous/psycho-reactive disorders). Unipolar depressive and bipolar disorders are widely conceived of as affective disorders. Socially inappropriate behaviour is a common symptom of manic episodes and there is a close link between affect and social behaviour. Socially inappropriate behaviour can also occur in people with brain lesions such as frontotemporal dementia. 

Our current research mainly focusses on understanding the cognitive-anatomical underpinnings of vulnerability to major depression and of inappropriate social behaviour in frontotemporal dementia. Recent insights into the neurocognitive architecture of social knowledge and moral motivations enable an improved understanding of these conditions. Overlapping fronto-temporo-mesolimbic neural networks are involved in knowing about the needs of others or socio-cultural norms (i.e. social knowledge) as well as feeling motivated to act upon them (i.e. moral motivations). This complex neural system supports our ability to interpret our own as well as other people's behaviour and to guide our actions accordingly. One of the challenges that we face every day is the attribution of causal agency to ourselves (i.e. self-blame or -praise) or others (i.e. other-blame, or -praise). This attribution of causal agency determines how we feel about failure or success and this is of core importance to our overall affective state. Our recent work has aimed at identifying the neuroanatomical basis of self-blaming (guilt), other-blaming (indignation),  self-praising (pride), and other-praising (gratitude) feelings. We are currently applying these new insights to the understanding of vulnerability to major depression which is associated with overgeneralized self-blame and to the loss of the ability to anticipate self-blame in frontotemporal dementia.