Sara Jahfari


Room: 1C-29

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I am working on the ERC-project ‘What you get is what you see: How reward determines perception’ recently obtained by Prof Jan Theeuwes. To study how reward or learned associations shape the allocation of visual attention, I will combine fMRI effective connectivity methods with formal reinforcement learning models (e.g., Q-learning, TD).


I obtained both my bachelors (BSc) and Masters (MSc) at the University of Amsterdam, where I studied both psychological methods and cognitive psychology. After my masters, I worked at the University of Amsterdam as a PhD student with Prof. dr. K. R. Ridderinkhof. This project was fully funded through a personal grant from the Dutch research institute (NOW) and investigated the neural correlates of response inhibition. During my PhD, we used recently developed effective connectivity methods for the analysis of fMRI data, to study how the prefrontal cortex (PFC) interacts with basal ganglia (BG) regions to suppress a planned response. Before starting at the VU University, I did a short post-doc with Prof. dr. K. R. Ridderinkhof and Prof. dr. M. J. Frank to study how reinforcement learning influences action selection through PFC-BG interactions. In general, my past research has combined multiple levels of computational modeling in both behavior (e.g., Q-learning, drift diffusion model) and brain (effective connectivity networks and TMS) to understand the neural mechanisms of decision-making, reinforcement learning and inhibitory control.

Research interests

My research interests include cognitive control, attention, reinforcement learning (RL), cortico-basal ganglia networks, effective and functional connectivity with fMRI, formal decision-making and RL-models. Reinforced stimuli capture our attention beyond their initial physical salience to optimize interactions with the surrounding environment. Rewarded stimuli receive such persistent priority through attentional capture that they not only contribute to the advance selection of reinforced stimuli, but additionally are shown to interfere with future goals that are incongruent with the reinforced task. In the upcoming years, I will study how reward influences the interaction between the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and visual regions to modulate fast attentional capture.”


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Recent publications

N Seijdel, S Jahfari, IIA Groen & HS Scholte (2018) Low-level image statistics in natural scenes influence perceptual decision-making. PsyArXiv
JC Van Slooten, S Jahfari, T Knapen & J Theeuwes (2017) Individual differences in eye blink rate predict both transient and tonic pupil responses during reversal learning. PloS one 12 (9), e0185665
S Jahfari & J Theeuwes (2017) Sensitivity to value-driven attention is predicted by how we learn from value. Psychonomic bulletin & review 24 (2), 408-4153
S Jahfari, KR Ridderinkhof, AGE Collins, T Knapen, L Waldorp & MJ Frank (2017) Cross-task contributions of fronto-basal ganglia circuitry in response inhibition and conflict-induced slowing. bioRxiv, 199299
I Groen, S Jahfari, V Lamme & HS Scholte (2015) Selective increase in recurrent processing during object detection in complex natural scenes. Journal of vision 15 (12), 346-346
VD Schmittmann, S Jahfari, D Borsboom, AO Savi & LJ Waldorp (2015) Making large-scale networks from fMRI data. PloS one 10 (9), e01290746
G Claeskens, E Pircalabelu, S Jahfari & L Waldorp (2015) Focused graphical model estimation (President’s invited lecture).
S Jahfari, L Waldorp, KR Ridderinkhof & HS Scholte (2015) Visual information shapes the dynamics of corticobasal ganglia pathways during response selection and inhibition. Journal of cognitive neuroscience 27 (7), 1344-13599
E Pircalabelu, G Claeskens, S Jahfari & LJ Waldorp (2015) A focused information criterion for graphical models in fMRI connectivity with high-dimensional data. The Annals of Applied Statistics 9 (4), 2179-22148
S Jahfari (2014) SOURCE (OR PART OF THE FOLLOWING SOURCE): Type PhD thesis Title Networks of action control.
E Pircalabelu, G Claeskens, S Jahfari & L Waldorp (2014) Nodewise graphical modeling using the focused information criterion for'p larger than n'settings. Proceedings of the 29th International Workshop on Statistical Modeling 1 …
S Jahfari (2014) Networks of action control. Universiteit van Amsterdam [Host]
S Jahfari, KR Ridderinkhof & HS Scholte (2013) Spatial Frequency Information Modulates Response Inhibition and Decision-Making Processes. PLOS ONE 8 (10), e764679
S Jahfari, F Verbruggen, MJ Frank, LJ Waldorp, L Colzato & ... (2012) How preparation changes the need for top–down control of the basal ganglia when inhibiting premature actions. Journal of Neuroscience 32 (32), 10870-1087881
BU Forstmann, MC Keuken, S Jahfari, PL Bazin, J Neumann, A Schäfer & ... (2012) Cortico-subthalamic white matter tract strength predicts interindividual efficacy in stopping a motor response. Neuroimage 60 (1), 370-375100
AM Krypotos, S Jahfari, VA van Ast, M Kindt & BU Forstmann (2011) Individual differences in heart rate variability predict the degree of slowing during response inhibition and initiation in the presence of emotional stimuli. Frontiers in psychology 2, 27831
S Jahfari, L Waldorp, WPM van den Wildenberg, HS Scholte & ... (2011) Effective connectivity reveals important roles for both the hyperdirect (fronto-subthalamic) and the indirect (fronto-striatal-pallidal) fronto-basal ganglia pathways duri.... Journal of Neuroscience 31 (18), 6891-6899191
S Jahfari, CM Stinear, M Claffey, F Verbruggen & AR Aron (2010) Responding with restraint: what are the neurocognitive mechanisms?. Journal of cognitive neuroscience 22 (7), 1479-1492138
BU Forstmann, S Jahfari, HS Scholte, U Wolfensteller & ... (2008) Function and structure of the right inferior frontal cortex predict individual differences in response inhibition: a model-based approach. Journal of Neuroscience 28 (39), 9790-9796197

View full list of publications on Google Scholar