Bernard Wolfe Professor of Health Neuroscience, Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge
Paul Fletcher trained in medicine and psychiatry before taking a PhD in cognitive neuroscience. He was elected Bernard Wolfe Professor of Health Neuroscience in 2008. He uses combinations of pharmacological challenges, neuroimaging and larger scale behavioural studies in healthy and clinical populations, with the aim of understanding the basis of learning and decision-making in the human brain.
The central principle of his research is that the brain is occupied in the process of forming predictions and associations to minimise error and uncertainty and to maximise reward. In many instances the cognitive and reflective processes engaged with this goal can conflict with underlying automatic and habitual processes. This may lead to behaviours that can seem irrational and in conflict with an individual’s expressed goals and that may prove health-harming in the longer term. Given that the major worldwide non-communicable diseases are profoundly influenced by health-harming decisions and behaviours, understanding how body, brain and environmental signals are integrated in shaping them will be a crucial part of improving global health.