Dr Ben Seymour

Ben Seymour

University position

Clinical Research Associate


Department of Engineering


Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute



Home page

http://www.seymourlab.com (personal home page)

Research Themes

Systems and Computational Neuroscience

Cognitive and Behavioural Neuroscience


My research aims to understand how pain is processed in the human brain by using a combination of theoretical and experimental methods. Our goal is to use this knowledge to design new types of (technology-based) treatment for patients who suffer from pain - the commonest cause of disability worldwide.

In particular, I develop 'systems-level' models, that aim to directly relate neural information processing to subjective perception and observable behaviour. Critically, these models yield precise predictions that can be tested in behavioural, physiological and neuroimaging experiments - my lab typically does all three. We've now managed to produce basic working simulations of the human pain system. We aim to use these to help understand clinical chronic pain.

I also workion the design of new technology-based applications, including synthetic pain systems and brain-based communication systems. I work jointly at the Center for Information and Neural Networks (CiNet) in Osaka, Japan.

Research Focus


Computational Neuroscience


Aversive Learning

Brain-machine interfaces


Clinical conditions

Acute and Chronic Pain


Computational modelling



Flavia Mancini

Trevor Robbins

Suyi Zhang


Susanne Becker Web: https://www.zi-mannheim.de/en/rese...

Mitsuo Kawato Web: http://www.cns.atr.jp/~kawato/

Takafumi Yanagisawa Web: https://www2.med.osaka-u.ac.jp/nsurg/y...

Wako Yoshida Web: https://bicr.atr.jp/~yoshid...

Associated News Items

Key publications

Seymour B (2019), “Pain: A Precision Signal for Reinforcement Learning and Control.” Neuron 101(6):1029-1041

Norbury, A., Robbins, T.W. and Seymour, B. (2018), “ Value generalization in human avoidance learning.” eLife 7, p.e34779.

Zhang S, Mano H, Lee M, Yoshida W, Kawato M, Robbins TW, Seymour B. (2018), “The control of tonic pain by active relief learning.” eLife 7

Zhang S, Mano H, Ganesh G, Robbins T, Seymour B. (2016), “Dissociable learning processes underlie human pain conditioning.” Current Biology 26(1):52-8.



Lee SW, Seymour B (2019), “Decision-making in brains and robots—the case for an interdisciplinary approach” Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences 26:137-45

Lee, J.H., Seymour, B., Leibo, J.Z., An, S.J. and Lee, S.W (2019), “Toward high-performance, memory-efficient, and fast reinforcement learning—Lessons from decision neuroscience” Science Robotics 4


Mano H, et al. (2018), “Classification and characterisation of brain network changes in chronic back pain: A multicenter study.” Wellcome open research 3

Morris LS, Sprenger C, Koda K, de la Mora DM, Yamada T, Mano H, Kashiwagi Y, Yoshioka Y, Morioka Y, Seymour B. (2018), “Anterior cingulate cortex connectivity is associated with suppression of behaviour in a rat model of chronic pain. ” Brain and neuroscience advances. 2398212818779646

Wang O, Lee SW, O’Doherty J, Seymour B, Yoshida W (2018), “Model-based and model-free pain avoidance learning.” Brain and neuroscience advances. 2:2398212818772964.

Yamishita et al. (2018), “A prediction model of working memory across health and psychiatric disease using whole-brain functional connectivity.” eLife 7. pii: e38844


Elfwing S, Seymour B. (2017), “Parallel reward and punishment control in humans and robots: safe reinforcement learning using the maxpain algorithm.” IEEE IDCL EpiRob

Lancaster J, Mano H, Callan D, Kawato M, Seymour B (2017), “Decoding Acute Pain with Combined EEG and Physiological Data.” IEEE Neural Engineering

Mano H, Yoshida W, Shibata K, Zhang S, Koltzenburg M, Kawato M, Seymour B. (2017), “Thermosensory Perceptual Learning Is Associated with Structural Brain Changes in Parietal–Opercular (SII) Cortex.” Journal of Neuroscience. 37(39):9380-8.


Koizumi A, Amano K, Cortese A, Shibata K, Yoshida W, Seymour B, Kawato M, Lau H. (2016), “Fear reduction without fear through reinforcement of neural activity that bypasses conscious exposure.” Nature Human Behaviour 1, 0006

Yanagisawa T, Fukuma R, Seymour B, Hosomi K, Kishima H, Shimizu T, Yokoi H, Hirata M, Yoshimine T, Kamitani Y, Saitoh Y. (2016), “Induced sensorimotor brain plasticity controls pain in phantom limb patients.” Nature Communications 7


Pauli W, Larsen T, Collette S, Tyszka J, Seymour B, O’Doherty J. (2015), “Distinct Contributions of Subregions of the Human Substantia Nigra to Appetitive and Aversive Learning.” J Neurosci 35(42): 14220-33

Story G, Vlaev I, Seymour B, Dayan P, Darzi A, Dolan R (2015), “Anticipation and Choice Heuristics in the Dynamic Consumption of Pain Relief.” PLoS Computational Biology 11(3):e1004039


Lawson R, Seymour B, Loh L, Lutti A, Dolan R, Dayan P, Weiskopf N, Roiser J. (2014), “The habenula encodes negative motivational value associated with primary punishment in humans. ” PNAS 111 (32) 11858-63

Rosa MJ, Seymour B (2014), “Decoding the matrix: benefits and limitations of applying machine learning algorithms to pain neuroimaging.” Pain 155(5):864-7 Details

Yoshida W, Seymour B (2014), “Decisions about Decisions.” Neuron 81(3):468-70 Details

Zhang S, Seymour B. (2014), “Technology for Chronic Pain.” Current Biology 24 (18) 930-35


Story GW, Vlaev I, Seymour B, Winston JS, Darzi A, Dolan RJ (2013), “Dread and the disvalue of future pain.” PLoS Comput Biol 9(11):e1003335 Details

Yoshida W, Seymour B, Koltzenburg M, Dolan RJ (2013), “Uncertainty increases pain: evidence for a novel mechanism of pain modulation involving the periaqueductal gray.” J Neurosci 33(13):5638-46 Details


Seymour B, Daw ND, Roiser JP, Dayan P, Dolan R (2012), “Serotonin selectively modulates reward value in human decision-making.” J Neurosci 32(17):5833-42 Details

Shiner T, Seymour B, Wunderlich K, Hill C, Bhatia KP, Dayan P, Dolan RJ (2012), “Dopamine and performance in a reinforcement learning task: evidence from Parkinson's disease.” Brain Details


Daw ND, Gershman SJ, Seymour B, Dayan P, Dolan RJ (2011), “Model-based influences on humans' choices and striatal prediction errors.” Neuron 69(6):1204-15 Details


Fitzgerald TH, Seymour B, Bach DR, Dolan RJ (2010), “Differentiable neural substrates for learned and described value and risk.” Curr Biol 20(20):1823-9 Details

Pine A, Shiner T, Seymour B, Dolan RJ (2010), “Dopamine, time, and impulsivity in humans.” J Neurosci 30(26):8888-96 Details

Yoshida W, Seymour B, Friston KJ, Dolan RJ (2010), “Neural mechanisms of belief inference during cooperative games.” J Neurosci 30(32):10744-51 Details

Yu R, Mobbs D, Seymour B, Calder AJ (2010), “Insula and striatum mediate the default bias.” J Neurosci 30(44):14702-7 Details


Bach DR, Seymour B, Dolan RJ (2009), “Neural activity associated with the passive prediction of ambiguity and risk for aversive events.” J Neurosci 29(6):1648-56 Details

FitzGerald TH, Seymour B, Dolan RJ (2009), “The role of human orbitofrontal cortex in value comparison for incommensurable objects.” J Neurosci 29(26):8388-95 Details

Mobbs D, Marchant JL, Hassabis D, Seymour B, Tan G, Gray M, Petrovic P, Dolan RJ, Frith CD (2009), “From threat to fear: the neural organization of defensive fear systems in humans.” J Neurosci 29(39):12236-43 Details

Mobbs D, Yu R, Meyer M, Passamonti L, Seymour B, Calder AJ, Schweizer S, Frith CD, Dalgleish T (2009), “A key role for similarity in vicarious reward.” Science 324(5929):900 Details

Pine A, Seymour B, Roiser JP, Bossaerts P, Friston KJ, Curran HV, Dolan RJ (2009), “Encoding of marginal utility across time in the human brain.” J Neurosci 29(30):9575-81 Details

Roiser JP, de Martino B, Tan GC, Kumaran D, Seymour B, Wood NW, Dolan RJ (2009), “A genetically mediated bias in decision making driven by failure of amygdala control.” J Neurosci 29(18):5985-91 Details

Vlaev I, Seymour B, Dolan RJ, Chater N (2009), “The price of pain and the value of suffering.” Psychol Sci 20(3):309-17 Details


Petrovic P, Pleger B, Seymour B, Klöppel S, De Martino B, Critchley H, Dolan RJ (2008), “Blocking central opiate function modulates hedonic impact and anterior cingulate response to rewards and losses.” J Neurosci 28(42):10509-16 Details

Seymour B, Dolan R (2008), “Emotion, decision making, and the amygdala.” Neuron 58(5):662-71 Details

Talmi D, Seymour B, Dayan P, Dolan RJ (2008), “Human pavlovian-instrumental transfer.” J Neurosci 28(2):360-8 Details

Wittmann BC, Daw ND, Seymour B, Dolan RJ (2008), “Striatal activity underlies novelty-based choice in humans.” Neuron 58(6):967-73 Details


Mobbs D, Petrovic P, Marchant JL, Hassabis D, Weiskopf N, Seymour B, Dolan RJ, Frith CD (2007), “When fear is near: threat imminence elicits prefrontal-periaqueductal gray shifts in humans.” Science 317(5841):1079-83 Details

Seymour B, Daw N, Dayan P, Singer T, Dolan R (2007), “Differential encoding of losses and gains in the human striatum.” J Neurosci 27(18):4826-31 Details

Seymour B, Singer T, Dolan R (2007), “The neurobiology of punishment.” Nat Rev Neurosci 8(4):300-11 Details


Daw ND, O'Doherty JP, Dayan P, Seymour B, Dolan RJ (2006), “Cortical substrates for exploratory decisions in humans.” Nature 441(7095):876-9 Details

De Martino B, Kumaran D, Seymour B, Dolan RJ (2006), “Frames, biases, and rational decision-making in the human brain.” Science 313(5787):684-7 Details

Kalisch R, Korenfeld E, Stephan KE, Weiskopf N, Seymour B, Dolan RJ (2006), “Context-dependent human extinction memory is mediated by a ventromedial prefrontal and hippocampal network.” J Neurosci 26(37):9503-11 Details

O'Doherty JP, Buchanan TW, Seymour B, Dolan RJ (2006), “Predictive neural coding of reward preference involves dissociable responses in human ventral midbrain and ventral striatum.” Neuron 49(1):157-66 Details

Pessiglione M, Seymour B, Flandin G, Dolan RJ, Frith CD (2006), “Dopamine-dependent prediction errors underpin reward-seeking behaviour in humans.” Nature 442(7106):1042-5 Details

Singer T, Seymour B, O'Doherty JP, Stephan KE, Dolan RJ, Frith CD (2006), “Empathic neural responses are modulated by the perceived fairness of others.” Nature 439(7075):466-9 Details


Seymour B, O'Doherty JP, Koltzenburg M, Wiech K, Frackowiak R, Friston K, Dolan R (2005), “Opponent appetitive-aversive neural processes underlie predictive learning of pain relief.” Nat Neurosci 8(9):1234-40 Details


Seymour B, O'Doherty JP, Dayan P, Koltzenburg M, Jones AK, Dolan RJ, Friston KJ, Frackowiak RS (2004), “Temporal difference models describe higher-order learning in humans.” Nature 429(6992):664-7 Details

Singer T, Seymour B, O'Doherty J, Kaube H, Dolan RJ, Frith CD (2004), “Empathy for pain involves the affective but not sensory components of pain.” Science 303(5661):1157-62 Details