Director |
Ezequiel Morsella

A theoretician and experimentalist in neuroscience, Ezequiel Morsella received his Ph.D. at Columbia University and carried out his postdoctoral training (2003 - 2007) at Yale University. Since his pre-college days, he has been focusing on the contrast between the conscious (e.g., urges and voluntary action) and unconscious brain mechanisms in human action production, thanks in large part to stumbling across a pile of old books by Hebb and Hull. For his professional profile, visit here. All of his publications, experimental paradigms, and theoretical developments center around the theme of the nature of involuntary (versus voluntary) "entry into consciousness" during action control.



In 2007, he was hired as a professor in neuroscience at San Francisco State University (where he is now Professor of Neuroscience) and as an Assistant Adjunct Professor in the Department of Neurology at the University of California, San Francisco. He is boardmember of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Institute of Cognitive Neurology (INECO; Buenos Aires) and Associate Director of the Center for Human Culture and Behavior at SFSU. In 2010, his research was recognized by the committee of the virtual Nobel prize in psychology/neuroscience Link. Click here to visit his neuroscience blog, Consciousness and the Brain. His theory has appeared in Psychological Review and Behavioral and Brain Sciences (target article).

Regarding his training, while at Columbia, he was mentored by Robert Krauss (Morsella's primary advisor, with whom Morsella conducted much research on working memory and mental representation), and by the cognitive neuropsychologist Michele Miozzo, with whom Morsella studied about models of action/speech production; at Yale, he was mentored by John Bargh and the neuroscientist Jeremy Gray. As an undergraduate, he was mentored by Robert B. Tallarico at the University of Miami (B.A., 1996, Phi Beta Kappa, Cum Laude).

Today, he is the lead author of Oxford Handbook of Human Action. Funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health, his research has appeared in journals such as Psychological Review, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Perspectives on Psychological Science, Neurocase, Consciousness and Cognition, Experimental Brain Research, and Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition. He has served as an editorial reviewer for many journals, including Science, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, Psychological Review; Cognition, Emotion, and Journal of Experimental Psychology (General, HPP, LMC). As a professor he has applied for NSF, NIMH, and NIDA grants.

Collaborators | Adam Gazzaley, MD., Ph.D., Dept. of Neuroscience, UC San Francisco
Mark W. Geisler, Ph.D., Dept. of Psychology, San Francisco State U.
  John A. Bargh, Ph.D., Dept. of Psychology, Yale University
  Stephen C. Krieger, MD., Neurology Dept., Mount Sinai Medical, NYC
  Jeremy R. Gray, Ph.D., Dept. of Psychology, Michigan State University
  Carlos Montemayor, Ph.D., Dept. of Philosophy, San Francisco State U.
  T. Andrew Poehlman, Ph.D., Clemson University
  Avi Ben-Zeev, Ph.D., Dept. of Psychology, San Francisco State U.
  Lawrence Williams, Ph.D., University of Colorado at Boulder
  Hakwan Lau, Ph.D., Dept. of Psychology, Columbia University
  Mariano Sigman, Ph.D., Dept. of Physics, U. of Buenos Aires.
  Michele Miozzo, Ph.D., Dept. of Psychology, Cambridge University
  Robert M. Krauss, Ph.D., Dept. of Psychology, Columbia University
  Michael S. A. Graziano, Dept. of Psychology, Princeton University.
Lab Guests | Guest Speakers/Discussants at the Lab
(in alphabetical order)
Joaquin Anguera, Ozlem Ayduk, Roy Baumeister, Bruce Bridgeman, Daniel Cervone, Serena Chen, Lorenza Colzato, Nicolas Davidenko, Adam Gazzaley, Joy Geng, Jeremy Gray, James Gross, Steven Hillyard, Bernhard Hommel, Benjamin Levy, Gary Marcus, James Magnuson, James McClelland, Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton, Michele Miozzo, Srikantan Nagarajan, Judy Pa, Andrew Poehlman, David Rosenbaum, Travis Seymour, Phil Shaver, Michael Spivey, Lisa Son, Benjamin Storm, Virginia Sturm, Eric Walle, Lawrence Williams, & Rex Wright. Here are some photos of the lab: The Space Photo1; Guests Photo1 Photo2 Photo3 Photo4 Photo5
Lab Members | Graduate and Undergraduate Students
Jessica Yankulova, the lab manager, is an undergraduate interested in consciousness and developmental psychology. She is especially interested in investigating action selection and the relationship between conscious and unconscious processes.
Anthony Velasquez is a graduate student interested in the neural networks supporting conscious processing (e.g., in working memory, impulse control, and encapsulation), and in how knowledge of such networks will inform the study of psychopathology. Anthony's long term goal is to apply our new paradigms (about the neural and cognitive aspects of conscious processing) to the burgeoning field of experimental psychopathology.
Alexander Cook is a graduate student co-advised by Dr. Geisler. He is interested in studying cognitive neuroscience, psychophysiology, and vision, especially in relation to conscious perception and unconscious attention. He plans to use EEG measures to examine neural correlates of these processes..
Erica B. Walker, co-advised by Dr. Geisler, is a graduate student with interests in cognitive neuroscience and evolutionary psychology. Specifically, she wants to investigate how the neural mechanisms of attention and memory mediate conscious experience using EEG measures. Upon completion of her master’s degree, she plans to pursue a doctorate in cognitive neuroscience.
Nathan White is interested in the phenomena and cognitive mechanisms behind intentional, goal-directed behavior. He hopes to one day investigate these phenomena in-depth, and answer both philosophical and scientific questions, as a college professor who actively contributes to the field.
Dennis Lambert is a graduate student interested in the neural mechanisms that underlie consciousness and attention, as well as how this scientific inquiry contributes to philosophical questions.
Yanming Li (Alison) is an undergraduate research assistant who is interested in consciousness and cognitive psychology. She is especially interested in the role of consciousness in voluntary actions and decisions.
Christina Y. Wong is a undergraduate research assistant who is interested in the neural underpinnings of human behavior and consciousness. She is also interested in learning more about disorders such as epilepsy, stroke, trauma, and memory loss.
Ellyn Daly is a post-baccalaureate researcher with a background in philosophy, most interested in understanding the physical mechanisms involved in consciousness. Her research has focused on how attentional processing of visual information is affected by reward. She is also interested in understanding how information and attentional processing affect subjective features of experience, aesthetic experience, unconscious versus conscious perception, sense of agency, and the role of consciousness in action and decision making.
Lab Alumni |
Former Lab Members Currently in PhD Programs
The first lab member, Christopher C. Berger is now a doctoral student of neuroscience at the the Brain, Body, and Self Lab at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, working with Prof. Henrik Ehrsson. At our lab, Chris investigated people's lay intuitions regarding how the body and mind/brain function, automatic imitation (e.g., whether tip-of-the-tongue states are contagious), and the relationships among self-control (e.g., action suppression), automaticity, and conscious processing (e.g., whether new action plans weaken the urge strength of older plans). To learn more about his research, click here.
With a background in cognitive neuroscience, Jason Hubbard is interested in the neural underpinnings of complex behaviors arising from the prefrontal cortex, but also has varied interests in aspects of consciousness, information processing, and semantic representation. He focused on the effects of holding different kinds of information (e.g., action-related versus non-action-related) in working memory. In the fall of 2011, he began doctoral study in cognitive science at the University of Oregon. To learn more about his research, click here.

While at the lab, Christine Godwin was interested in spontaneous thought processes and both the underlying neural correlates of spontaneous thoughts (e.g., default mode network) as well as participants' lay intuitions regarding the causes of their thoughts. By using EEG measures, she hopes to pinpoint the neural dynamics of spontaneous thoughts and examine the neural differences between thoughts elicited by external stimuli and internal mental processes. In the fall of 2013, she commenced her doctoral studies at the Georgia Institute of Technology. To learn more about Christine, click here.
Allison Allen is interested in the nature of the 'internal observer' (the conscious mind's eye) and in parsing out which processes are conscious versus which are unconscious, examining how mental representations "compete for consciousness." At the lab, she was the principal investigator concerning the Reflexive Imagery Task. In the fall of 2016, she began her doctoral studies at University of California, Santa Cruz, working with Prof. Davidenko.
Travis Riddle is now a doctoral fellow at Columbia University. Using standard laboratory paradigms involving automaticity, Travis has investigated the interplay between subjective urges and cognitive conflict (e.g., response interference), with the goal of illluminating the role that this interaction has on authorship processing (how people attribute their own actions, and cognitive processes, to the 'self'). He has also investigated the role of proprioceptive feedback in authorship processing. Travis also contributes as a popular science writer to the prestigious Scientific American magazine.
Tiffany K. Jantz is interested in the component processes (e.g., attention, awareness, imagery, and action-related processes) of visuospatial working memory. She has already conducted over 5 challenging experiments. Tiffany is also interested in distributed cognition, subliminal processing, and ways by which to reduce cognitive load. Tiffany plans to pursue a doctoral degree researching topics falling between cognitive neuroscience and cognitive psychology. In the fall of 2013, she began her doctoral studies at University of Michigan
Maggie Lynn is interested in conscious processes and mental representation. Her studies focused on the role of propioceptive feedback in the sense of agency, the dynamics of motivation and the urge to quit, the perceptual and motor components of subvocalization, and distinguishing forms of cortical binding. In the fall of 2010, she began a doctoral fellow at Ghent University in Belgium, working with Prof. Marcel Brass. Click here to learn more about her research.
Lara C. Krisst is interested in the neural dynamics that distinguish conscious and unconscious processing. Specifically, she is interested in how action production modulates entry into awareness. To investigate this question of how that which is inaccessible influences that which is consciously accessible, her current projects examine 1) introspective aspects of visual sensory memory (drawing on Sperling's paradigm) and 2) how automatizing a motor action affects temporal perception (drawing on Libet's paradigm). She is now a doctoral student at UC Davis (Center for Mind and Brain). To learn more about Lara, click here.
Christina Merrick is interested in several aspects of executive control, including action selection, the effects of task rules on cognitive processes/behavior, and proactive inhibition. She has investigated these phenomena in behavioral studies and an EEG study, which further investigates the role of high alpha oscillations (~11 hz) as inhibitory control during a working memory task. She is also currently working on a single pulse TMS study that examines motor evoked potentials during a stop-signal task at UC Berkeley (her alma mater). In the fall of 2015, she began her doctoral studies at UC Berkeley, working with Prof. Ivry. To view Christina's CV, click here.

Sabrina Bhangal is interested in neuropsychology. In the lab, she served as lab manager and worked on several key projects, contributing to each stage of the research process. In addition, she ran her own project which involved a variant of the lab's new, Reflexive Imagery Task. In the fall of 2017, she began her doctoral studies at University of Missouri-Columbia, working for Prof. Moshe Naveh-Benjamin.

How does the conscious perception pathway interact with what has been construed as the unconscious action pathway(s)? While at the lab, Pareezad Zarolia addressed this fundamental question in an experiment that examined the link between mental simulation and emotional processing. She successfully concluded a summer fellowship to conduct cognitive research at Stanford University. In the fall of 2010, she began a doctoral fellowship at the University of Denver. For more information about Pareezad, click here.
Benny P. Chen is now a doctoral candidate at the Washington University in St. Louis, working in the laboratory of Prof. Scott Frey. His research at our lab focused on the establishment of 'action sets' and on unconscious intersensory conflicts. Before joining the lab as a graduate student, Benny obtained research experience working on intersensory experiments in Prof. Adam Gazzaley's lab at UCSF. To learn more about Benny, click here.
Hyein Cho is interested in thought control paradigms and their possible application to the treatment of psychopathology. Specifically, she wants to investigate the role that consciousness plays in controlling intrusive thoughts and how this role, and cognitive control more generally, varies across different clinical populations. Her future goal in research is to investigate potential treatment paths for anxiety symptoms. In the fall of 2016, she began doctoral studies at the Graduate Center at City University of New York.
Maria Robinson earned her M.A. in social psychology at the University of Chicago. Her research at the lab concerns the liaisons among consciousness, self-regulation, and the subjective sense of effort. In addition, Maria is the lab's manuscript coordinator. Soon she will apply to PhD programs to pursue her interests in social cognition. In the fall of 2013, she began her doctoral studies at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
As undergraduate and NIMH COR scholar also working in Dr. Geisler’s psychophysiology laboratory, Jason Samaha's research focused on the brain networks supporting conscious processes such as mental imagery and working memory.  To this end, he conducted experiments using TMS and ERP/EEG coherence to investigate the neural correlates of inherently conscious processes such as intentionally foregrounding a specific representation (refreshing). In the fall of 2013, he began his doctoral fellowship at University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Wei Dou, who also worked with Dr. Geisler, was a graduate student interested in cognitive neuroscience. Before joining the lab, she acquired research experience working on neural mechanism of decision making and social cognition at South China Normal University. In our lab, her research is focused on investigating the role of consciousness in executive control and decision making, by using EEG measures. She is now enrolled in the doctoral program at UC Santa Cruz.
For her honors thesis, Meredith Lanska, investigated the liaison between conscious, episodic memory and action. Her experiments combined the tools of action and memory research. One of her experiments included a new, parametric technique for associating the contents of episodic memory. In the fall of 2010, she began a doctoral fellowship at the State University of New York at Binghamton. Click here to learn more about Meredith.
As an MA student, Tara C. Dennehy was interested in the threshold between conscious and non-conscious perceptual processing and how action may influence entry into attentional awareness. Tara conducted a series of studies examining how top-down action-related mechanisms influence what enters attentional awareness when visual targets are presented subliminally. In the fall of 2011, she began doctoral study in social cognition at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. To learn more about her research, click here.
Taylor Rigby was the founding lab manager of the lab. Her work in the lab focused on how motor control is influenced by cognitive conflict. After graduating from SFSU magna cum laude, she worked as a Research Coordinator at UCSF Memory and Aging Center, working primarily on a longitudinal study tracking cognitive decline in healthy aging. She later worked at the at the University of Utah, in the Executive Lab, examining how motor and affective processes alter as a result of pathology and/or environmental perturbation. She is currently persuing a Ph.D. in Clinical Neuropsychology at the University of Kansas under the mentorship of Dr. David Johnson. To learn more about her research, click here.
Pooya Razavi, co-advised by Prof. Yoo, was a graduate student interested in self- and emotion-regulation, social isolation, and habituation. In the lab, he worked on a project to investigate the influence of ego-depletion on the habituation of involuntary thoughts using a variant of the lab’s Reflexive Imagery Task. In the fall of 2016, he will begin doctoral studies at the University of Oregon.
While manager of Mark Geisler's Cognitive Psychophysiology Lab, Nick Bedo was instrumental in carrying out the ERP's and EEG coherence experiments by Geisler and Morsella regarding the different kinds of 'binding' in the brain. In addition, he used visual illusions (e.g., Kanisza figures) to understand top-down processing. In the fall of 2010, he began doctoral training with Prof. Lawrence Ward at the University of British Columbia, Canada.
Tanaz Molapour is interested in the unconscious cognitive dynamics that can give rise to preferences and affective responses toward situations and incidental stimuli. For one of her projects, she used backward masking to present visual objects subliminally. Tanaz's basic research on how, through processing dynamics, we come to like or dislike neutral (non-biologically-significant) stimuli has broad implications. She is continuing her graduate studies working with Profs. Olsson and Öhman at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. Click here to learn more about her research.
Shanna Cooper's interests are focused at the intersection of cognitive and emotional processing in healthy individuals and those with mental health diagnoses (i.e., schizophrenia). In the lab, she worked on a number of studies involving attentional awareness and working memory. In the fall of 2012, Shanna commenced doctoral study at Temple University.
Donish Cushing is a graduate student who is interested in how actions are rendered adaptive through conscious processing and through feedback from various neural systems. Specifically, he wants to investigate the role that consciousness plays in adapting action plans to deal with novel situations or obstacles. His future goal in research is to investigate also higher-level, socially acquired action plans.
Sheila Pugh is interested in cognitive neuroscience research, especially as it pertains to clinical populations. Currently, she is working on a collaborative project with the Cognitive Psychophysiology Laboratory that explores resting EEG asymmetry, ERPs, and affective processing biases utilizing a variation of the Reflexive Imagery Task. Additionally, Sheila is an assistant clinical research coordinator for the BRIGHTEN Center's Over-60-Program at UCSF.
Cam Bui was a graduate student interested in the interplay between social and cognitive psychology. She is particularly intent on studying the intersections between consciousness, complex trauma, and affective processes.
A full-time member of Prof. Charlotte Tate's Social Perception, Attitudes, and Mental SimuIation Lab, Jessica Tomory is interested in conscious and unconscious processes, interference from incentivized stimuli, and social cognition. Before obtaining her BA, Jessica was an honors student in SFSU's honors program. When she had free time from the responsibilities of her primary lab, she somehow found time to help out with research in our lab. In the fall of 2012, she began a doctoral study at Claremont Graduate University.
Zaviera Reyes was co-advised by Prof. Yoo and was a graduate student interested in resilience and the behavioral processes associated with responding adaptively to everyday stressors. In particular, she is interested in how attentional biases and subvocalizations reflect individual differences in resilience and whether these behaviors can be changed over time to improve self-regulation and physiological well-being. After completing her Masters degree, Zaviera became a doctoral student at the University at Buffalo to further examine what behaviors are characteristic of resilient individuals and how to foster those patterns in others. 
Lisa Moreno was an undergraduate research assistant interested in consciousness and cognitive control. Specifically, she is interested in the mechanisms underlying human decision making.
Jamie Renna was an undergraduate research assistant interested in neuropsychology. To learn about the neural correlates of consciousness and other high-level cognitive functions, she focuses on experimental paradigms (e.g., the reflexive imagery task) and also on the neurological literature (e.g., lesion studies and aphasia). She is now a graduate student at San Diego State University, working with Prof. Phillip Holcomb.
Kevin Wilkins is currently a doctoral student in neuroscience at Northwestern University. His research at our lab focused on the role of consciousness in the suppression action plans, as well as in working memory. He is a co-author on the founding paper of our new paradigm, the Reflexive Imagery Task.
Katelyn Gardner was an undergraduate student interested in sensory perception, mental imagery, and the neural correlates of consciousness and the self. In addition to reviewing literature on these topics, she worked on her Honors Program thesis aimed at researching involuntary actions and attention.