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I lead the Mental Health Neuroscience programme of research at the Unit. We work to answer questions like: what changes in our brain during periods of mental ill-health? How does the way our brains process the world, including the physical body, make us susceptible to developing a mental health disorder? And finally, how can we capitalise on the tools of neuroscience - brain imaging, brain stimulation, computational modelling, among others - to improve our ability to treat mental health disorders?

To answer these questions, I conduct three types of experiments:

  • Basic neuroscience experiments investigating cognitive and physiological mechanisms important for maintaining mental health (e.g., this MR imaging study in adolescents, or this behavioural study). We have a particular interest in body-brain interactions, where we use causal methods (like this study showing a role for the stomach's rhythm in disgust avoidance)
  • Clinical experiments in patient populations, such as people suffering from major depressive disorder, to investigate brain and behavioural differences that occur as a result of a mental health condition (e.g., this fMRI study, or this behavioural study). We are keen to use transdiagnostic approaches to reveal brain differences in sensing the physical body across psychiatric disorders
  • Translational studies testing out new ways of treating mental health disorders (such as this trial of a new treatment for depression or this experimental study of a new type of brain stimulation), or using reverse translation to understand the mechanisms of existing treatments (such as this imaging study here).

I also have an interest in methodological issues affecting neuroscience and psychiatry - see my work on statistical power and imaging reliability (here and here).


  1. Weidacker K, Kim SG, Nord CL, Rua K, Rodgers C, Voon V. Avoiding monetary loss: a human habenula functional MRI ultra high-field study. Cortex (In Press)
  2. Nord CL, Lawson RP, & Dalgleish T. Disrupted dorsal mid-insula activation during interoception across psychiatric disorders. The American Journal of Psychiatry (In Press)

We found a transdiagnostic, domain-general difference in interoceptive processing in the left dorsal mid-insula (N=626 patients; 610 controls). Disrupted mid-insular activation may represent a neural marker of psychopathology and a putative target for novel interventions.

  1. Nord CL. Predicting response to brain stimulation in depression: a roadmap for biomarker discovery. Current Behavioral Neuroscience Reports (2021) 8, 11–19.

In an invited review, I proposed a theoretical model for developing, testing, and validating brain stimulation biomarkers of treatment response in depression.

  1. Nord CL, Barrett LF, Lindquist K, Ma Y, Marwood L, Satpute A., Dalgleish T. Neural effects of psychological therapy and antidepressant medication on the brain’s affect circuitry: a quantitative synthesis across three meta-analyses. British Journal of Psychiatry (2021) doi: 10.1192/bjp.2021. *Altmetric score: 99 = top 2% of all papers (>16m to date)

 We analysed single-subject data from three meta-analyses (N=4206), finding distinct neural changes to the affect network following psychological therapy compared to antidepressant medication. This supports theories of treatment-specific neural mechanisms of medication and psychotherapy.

  1. Nord CL*Dalmaijer ES*, ArmstrongT, Baker K, Dalgleish T. A causal role for gastric state in human disgust avoidance.Current Biology (2021) 31:3, 629-634. *Altmetric score: 149 = top 1% of all papers (>16m to date) 

We discovered that gastric state contributes to disgust avoidance by pharmacologically normalising gastric rhythm with domperidone, and measuring oculomotor disgust avoidance. This supports a contribution of bodily state to disgust avoidance.

  1. Lawson, RP, Bisby, J, Nord, CL, Burgess, N, Rees, G. The computational, pharmacological, and physiological determinants of sensory learning under uncertainty. Current Biology (2021) 31: 163-172. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2020.10.043 Altmetric score: 149 = top 1% of all papers (>16m to date)
  2. Nord CL, Halahakoon C, Lally N, Limbachya T, Pilling S, Roiser JP. The neural basis of hot and cold cognition in depressed patients, unaffected relatives, and low-risk healthy controls: an fMRI investigation. Journal of Affective Disorders (2020) 274: 389-398. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2020.05.022

 We found that first-degree relatives of depressed patients show intact dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) activity during working memory, similar to low-risk healthy controls, compared to patients with depression. This may be a neural indicator of resilience, and supports targeting the DLPFC in treatments.

  1. Voon V, Joutsa J, Majuri J, Baek K, Nord CL, Arponen E, Forsback S, Kaasinen V. The neurochemical substrates of habitual and goal-directed control. Translational Psychiatry (2020) 10: 84. doi: 10.1038/s41398-020-0762-5
  2. Nord CL, Halahakoon DC, Limbachya T, Charpentier CJ, Lally N, Liebowitz J, Pilling S, Roiser JP. Neural predictors of treatment response to brain stimulation and psychological therapy in depression: a double-blind randomized controlled trialNeuropsychopharmacology (2019a) 44: 1613–1622. doi: 10.1038/s41386-019-0401-0

We led the first randomized controlled trial combining transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) with cognitive behavioural therapy. I identified a reliable neuroimaging biomarker, DLPFC activation during working memory that strongly predicted clinical response to tDCS.

  1. Nord CL, Gray A, Robinson OJ, Roiser JP. Reliability of prefrontal-amygdala coupling during emotional face processingBrain Sciences(2019), 9(4), 89. doi:10.3390/brainsci9040089
  2. Nord CL, Kim S, Rømer Thomsen,K, Callesen MB, Kvamme TL, Jensen M, Pedersen MU, Voon VThe myeloarchictecture of impulsivity: premature responding in youth is associated with decreased myelination of ventral putamenNeuropsychopharmacology(2019b) 0:1–8. doi: 10.1038/s41386-019-0343-6.

In a large adolescent sample, Iwe showed that a key impulsivity measure translated from the rodent literature, premature responding, is strongly and specifically associated with decreased myelination in the ventral putamen (quantified as R1, the longitudinal relaxation rate). This could represent an anatomical marker for addiction risk.

  1. Nord CL, Popa T, Smith E, Hannah R, Doñamayor N, Weidacker K, Bays PM, Rothwell J, Voon VThe effect of frontoparietal paired associative stimulation on decision-making and working memoryCortex(2019) 117: 266-276. doi:10.1016/j.cortex.2019.03.015

We found that paired associative transcranial magnetic stimulation altered the balance of habitual and goal-directed decisional-control, putatively through plasticity-dependent effects on prefrontal-parietal circuitry. This technique could be useful in disorders that alter decisional control, including addictions. 

  1. Kohl S, Hannah R, Rocchi L, Nord CL, Rothwell J, Voon V. Cortical paired associative stimulation influences response inhibition: cortico-cortical and cortico-subcortical networksBiological Psychiatry(2019) 85:355-363. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2018.03.009.
  2. Nord CL, Lawson RP, Huys QJM, Roiser JP. Exaggerated loss-specific Pavlovian-instrumental transfer in unmedicated major depressionScientific Reports(2018) 8:12582 doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-30828-5.
  3. Nord CL, Valton V, Wood JX, Roiser JP. Power up: a re-analysis of ‘power failures’ in neuroscience using mixture modelling.Journal of Neuroscience(2017) 3592-16. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3592-16.2017.

On average, neuroscience studies are underpowered. We used Gaussian Mixture Modelling to demonstrate that many studies show acceptable or even exemplary statistical power. This new, more nuanced picture of statistical power could affect scientific understanding, policy, and funding for neuroscience.

  1. Nord CL, Gray A, Charpentier CJ, Robinson OJ, Roiser JP. Unreliability of putative fMRI biomarkers during emotional face processing. NeuroImage(2017) 156:119-127.

We found low statistical reliability of two putative functional magnetic resonance imaging ‘biomarkers’ for treatment response in psychiatry. Because reliability is essential for a useful biomarker, activation from these regions is potentially unsuitable as a biomarker.

  1. Nord CL, Forster S, Halahakoon C, Munafò, MM Roiser, JP. Prefrontal cortex stimulation does not affect emotional bias, but may slow emotion identificationSocial Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience(2017) 12(5): 839-847.
  2. Nord CL, Prabhu G, Nolte T, Fonagy P, Dolan RJ, Moutoussis M. Vigour in active avoidance.Scientific Reports(2017) 7(60). doi:10.1038/s41598-017-00127-6.
  3. Lawson RP, Nord CL, Seymour B, Thomas DL, Dayan P, Pilling S, Roiser JP. Disrupted habenula function in major depressionMolecular Psychiatry(2017) 22(2):202-208. doi: 10.1038/mp.2016.81
  4. Torrisi S, Nord CL, Balderston N, Roiser JP, Grillon C, Ernst M. Resting state connectivity of the human habenula at ultra-high fieldNeuroimage(2016) 147:872-879doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2016.10.034
  5. Nord CL, Roiser JP. Non-invasive direct current brain stimulation for depression: the evidence behind the hype.Advances in Clinical Neurology and Rehabilitation(2015) 15(5):9-11.
  6. Nord CL, Lally N, Charpentier C. Harnessing electric potential: DLPFC tDCS induces widespread brain perfusion changes.Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience(2013) 7:99. doi: 10.3389/fnsys.2013.00099
  7. Lally N, Nord CL, Walsh V, Roiser J. Does excitatory fronto-extracerebral tDCS lead to improved working memory performance?F1000 Research (2013) 2:219. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.2-219.v2