Neuropsychology of behavioural control: from executive functioning to habits

In the course of a normal day, we constantly alternate between automatic, routine and habitual behaviors, interspersed with episodes of conscious cognitive control to adjust to changing situational demands (Evans, 2008, Graybiel, 2008).

Over the past few decades, neuroscience has advanced exponentially, and researchers now believe that this dynamic switching between habitual and control behavior is subtended by three different systems within the brain. The cerebral cortex would be specialized for unsupervised learning based on Hebbian plasticity. The basal ganglia would be specialized for reinforcement (reward- based) learning, guided by the reward signals from midbrain dopaminergic neurons. The cerebellum would be specialized for supervised (error- based) learning, guided by error signals from the inferior olive (Doya, 2000, Bostan & Strick, 2018). All three systems require coordinated interactions to generate and implement normal behavior.

The main question we ask in our lab is whether this vision is relevant to understanding, assessing and rehabilitating brain and cerebellar conditions. CENLabs’s projects all have two main strands: experimental, where we seek to improve knowledge about the brain‑behavior relationship focusing our interest on the psychological and neural mechanisms underlying habit formation and expression; and applied, where we endeavor to translate our ideas and discoveries into new guidelines and tests for practitioners working in the field of clinical neuropsychological evaluation and rehabilitation.


  • Cerebellar contribution to human emotion: insights from stroke and neuroimaging (Swiss National Foundation – 2019 to 2023 – Grant N°: 105314_182221)
  • Functional specialization and integration of the basal ganglia in human emotion (Swiss National Foundation – 2016 to 2019 – Grant N°: 105314_140622)


  • Yogatherapy in Addiction and Bipolar Disorder (with Isabelle Biseul, F. Vidal Hospital, Paris)
  • Personality, Cognition & Emotion in Multiple Sclerosis (with Patrice Lalive d’Epinay, HUG, Geneva)