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Professor of Neuroscience, Psychopharmacology and Mental Health

University Research Fellow

Professor Ciara McCabe examines the human reward experience using behavioural and brain imaging techniques.

Ciara did her PhD with Prof Leslie on the effects of anti-anxiety drugs in animal models in the Psychology Department at the University of Ulster.

Working with Prof Nader she did a post-doc in primate models of drug addiction in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at Wake Forest University, NC, USA.

Ciara then joined Prof Rolls to examine the human reward response using neuroimaging in the Department of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University.

Moving to Psychiatry at Oxford University Ciara then worked as a research fellow with Prof Harmer and Prof Cowan examining the human reward response in psychiatric disorders, using neuroimaging and psychopharmacological challenges.

Combining her experience, she now leads the Neuroscience of Reward Group (NRG) at the University of Reading. Using neuroscience approaches NRG examines how reward processing is related to adolescent mental health symptoms and their treatment.

With extensive experience of industry collaborations, NRG also uses neuro-cognitive approaches to enhance our understanding of human behaviour in relation to the rewarding and sensory components of commercial products  e.g., food and drink.



Post-doctoral Researcher

Hee-Kyoung is a neuroscientist who did her PhD in Boston University on  the role of fixational eye movements in high-acuity tasks using an eye-tracker (psychophysical studies).

She then completed post-doctoral positions at John Hopkins University, USA and The University of Texas (Austin), USA. More recently she worked as a research scientist at the University of Oxford, Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics with Prof Andrew Parker linking neuronal responses to visual perception.

At NRG-Lab Hee Kyoung is examining the subjective perception and neural response to sweet food tastes in humans using fMRI.



Post-Doctoral Fellow

PhD Thesis Title: Reward and Aversion processing in Adolescents with Depression symptoms.

Dr Siyabend Kaya obtained his BSc degree from Adıyaman University in 2012. He has worked as a School Counsellor and as a Counselling Psychologist in a Counselling & Research Centre affiliated with the Ministry and National Education.

He completed his MSc (2015) and PhD (2020) in Counselling Psychology at Inonu University in Turkey. Between 2013-2018, he worked as a research assistant in the developmental psychology department at Bingöl University. In 2018 he was awarded to do a doctorate in the UK under the "YLSY Scholarship Program" organised by the Turkish Ministry of National Education.  



PhD student

Hanxin did her Bachelors degree in Applied Psychology at the Chongqing University of Arts and Sciences. She then completed her MSc in Development and Psychopathology at the University of Reading in 2018.

She is now working on her PhD with Dr Vogt and Prof McCabe on how valuing happiness predicts well-being in different cultural backgrounds



PhD student

Xueqing did her Bachelors in Psychology at Jacobs University Bremen in Germany, and then earned a MSc Clinical Mental Health Sciences at University College
London (UCL) in 2021.
For her PhD Xueqing is working with Prof. McCabe on examining different components of anhedonia (anticipation, consummation, motivation for social & non-social rewards), and how they could manifest in adolescents and depression.



PhD student

Angad completed his integrated-MSc in Neuroscience from UCL (2015) and then an MSc in Psychiatric Research from King’s College London (2020). Currently pursuing his PhD under the ‘Regional Bursary’, he is examining reward vs. effort learning in adolescents and its relationship with anhedonia. This involves developing a reinforcement learning task with probabilistic binary outcomes (high/low) for reward and effort, where the exertion of effort leads to reward.

Additionally, he is conducting a second study examining expected and consummatory pleasure in real settings in adolescents.

Together his studies will contribute to our understanding of how anhedonia might manifest in depressed adolescents daily life. This may reveal novel therapeutic targets for treating anhedonia.

GitHub account: GitHub: angadsahni93



PhD student

Sena did her undergraduate degree in Psychology at Sehir University, Istanbul. She then obtained a distinction in her MSc in Neuroscience at Üsküdar University, Istanbul.

For her PhD Sena is working with Prof McCabe and Dr Frey on examining depression in young people and its relation to self perception.



PhD student

Phoenix holds a BSc and MSc from the University of Reading, in Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience respectively.

Currently, Phoenix is pursuing her PhD, with Professor Carian van Reekum, Professor Ciara McCabe and Dr. Wiebke Gandhi. Phoenix’s research areas include reward processing, anhedonia and pain.



PhD student

Katie Diab is currently working with Professor Ciara McCabe and Dr Netta Weinstein in pursuing her PhD at the University of Reading. Her research areas include major depressive disorder, mental health and stigmatism. She is frequently engaged in various assignments as a Live-In Psychologist at The Kusnacht Practice – a rehabilitation treatment centre based in Zürich, Switzerland.

Katie completed her Master of Science in Psychology and Neuroscience of Mental Health through King´s College London in 2021. Prior, she obtained a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in both Psychology and English Literature at the University of The Witwatersrand, as well as a Bachelor of Arts Honours in Psychological Counselling Psychology at the University of South Africa.

People: Lab Members
People: List



Post-doctoral researcher, Experimental Psychology Department, University of Oxford.

Rebecca completed her PhD, under the supervision of Professor Shirley Reynolds, Professor Ciara McCabe and Professor Kate Harvey.  Her PhD research focused on the symptom of anhedonia in adolescent depression, focusing on its conceptualisation, assessment and treatment.


Anna did her PhD in the lab on Social Learning in Depression: Evidence from Computational Modelling, Neuroimaging, and Neurotransmitter Depletion.
Successfully completed within 4 years FT.
Medical Research Council (MRC) funded.


Lecturer, Psychology Department, University of Reading.

Zola did her PhD in the lab on Anhedonia in Major Depressive Disorder and the case for its treatment using catecholaminergic antidepressants.
Successfully completed within 4 years FT.
University of Reading Social Sciences Doctoral Funding.


PhD student Dept. of Clinical Psychology, University of Tokyo, Japan.

Visiting PhD student to NRG-Lab for 6 months in 2018.


Clinical Psychologist working in the Imperial College Healthcare NHS, Trust, London.

Alex did her Phd in the lab on Reward and Punishment Probabilistic Learning in Depression: Using signal detection tasks.
Successfully completed within 4 years FT.
Medical Research Council (MRC) funded.


Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Erlangen University.

Dr Horndasch from Erlangen University worked for a year in our lab as a visiting Psychiatrist examining the neural responses to reward in those at risk of eating Disorders.


Director, Patient Centered Science at AstraZenecaCambridge, England, United Kingdom

Ewelina did her PhD in the lab on Neural Responses to Reward and Aversion in adolescents as a Possible Biomarker for Depression.
Successfully completed within 4 years FT.
Medical Research Council (MRC) funded.


Clinical Psychologist working in CAMHS

Felicity did her PhD in the lab on Reward Processing in Adolescents and Adults at Risk of Anorexia Nervosa.
Successfully completed within 4 years FT.
Sir Jules Thorn Charitable Trust funded. University of Oxford.

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