Jaime Castrellon


jaime castrellon

Assistant Professor
Ph.D.: Duke University
Primary Area: Cognitive Psychology
Secondary Area: Behavioral Neuroscience
Email: jcastrellon@psych.ucla.edu

Research and Teaching Interests:

Humans regularly make decisions that require integrating benefits and costs to motivate pursuit of goals. However, there is much we don’t know about what motivates people to make decisions and why people differ in these motivations as they balance benefits and costs. To explore these questions, my research takes a multidisciplinary approach to the study of motivation and value in decision making. Specifically, I combine experimental behavioral economics, computational models, theories about social perception and bias, pharmacology, neuroimaging techniques (fMRI and PET), and experience sampling measures to understand basic mechanisms of motivation and individual differences in how and why people arrive at their decisions to affect their own well-being and the well-being of others. My research can be organized into two areas of focus (1) basic mechanisms of motivation and decision making and (2) translation to everyday life. These areas are complementary and integrate methods that seek to explain how cognitive and neural systems support motivation and value-based decision making.

In the next few years, my lab will pursue questions such as: What neural and behavioral factors contribute to how an individual learns, values, and is motivated to pursue different kinds of social versus non-social rewards? What is the role of catecholamines like dopamine and norepinephrine in shaping social preferences (e.g., fairness or trust) and value-based decisions? What are the cognitive and neural mechanisms that explain how biases in social perception shape decision making at-large and in specific legal contexts? How do adult age differences moderate all these motivational and decision mechanisms? And what is the interrelationship between these mechanisms and daily social, cultural, and environmental experiences?

I am recruiting 1-2 graduate students to join the lab in Fall 2024. Please get in touch if you are interested in joining as a graduate student or as a postdoctoral scholar.


Jaime Castrellon will join the department as an Assistant Professor in July 2024 with an affiliation in the Chicano Studies Research Center. He completed his Ph.D. in Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University where he worked with Dr. Gregory Samanez-Larkin to study the role of dopamine in reward valuation and decision making. He then conducted a postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Joseph Kable and Dr. Adrianna Jenkins at the University of Pennsylvania where he studied how humans learn about and integrate social information in their decisions. Prior to graduate school, he obtained his B.A. in Neuroscience and Political Science from the University of Southern California. His research has been generously supported by the National Institute of Health and the National Science Foundation.

Representative Publications:

  1. Castrellon, J.J., Hakimi, S., Parelman, J.M., Lin, Y., Law, J.R., Skene, J.A.G., Ball, D.A., Malekpour, A., Beskind, D., Vidmar, N., Pearson, J.M., Skene, J.H.P., Carter, R.M. (2022). Social cognitive processes explain bias in juror decisions. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsac057.
  2. Castrellon, J.J., Hakimi, S., Parelman, J.M., Lin, Y., Law, J.R., Skene, J.A.G., Ball, D.A., Malekpour, A., Beskind, D., Vidmar, N., Pearson, J.M., Carter, R.M., Skene, J.H.P (2022). Neural support for contributions of utility and narrative processing of evidence in juror decision making. Journal of Neuroscience, 42 (40), 7624–7633. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2434-21.2022.
  3. Castrellon, J.J., Meade, J., Greenwald, L., Hurst, K., Samanez-Larkin, G.R. (2021). Dopaminergic modulation of reward discounting in healthy rats: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychopharmacology, 238,711–723. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-020-05723-5.
  4. Burr, D.A., Castrellon, J.J., Zald, D.H., Samanez-Larkin, G.R. (2020). Emotion dynamics across adulthood in everyday life: older adults are more stable in their affective experiences and better at regulating desires. Emotion. https://doi.org/10.1037/emo0000734.
  5. Castrellon, J.J., Young, J.S., Dang, L.C., Cowan, R.L., Zald, D.H., Samanez-Larkin, G.R., (2019). Mesolimbic dopamine D2 receptors and neural representations of subjective value. Scientific Reports, 9, 20229. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-56858-1.
  6. Castrellon, J.J., Seaman K.L., Crawford, J.L., Young, J.S., Smith, C.T., Dang, L.C., Hsu, M., Cowan, R.L., Zald, D.H., Samanez-Larkin, G.R. (2019). Individual differences in dopamine are associated with reward discounting in clinical groups but not in healthy adults. Journal of Neuroscience, 39 (2), 321–332. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1984-18.2018.
  7. Seaman, K.L., Brooks, N., Karrer, T., Castrellon, J.J., Perkins, S.F., Dang, L.C., Hsu, M., Zald, D.H., Samanez-Larkin, G.R. (2018). Subjective value representations during effort, probability, and time discounting across adulthood. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 13(5), 449–459. https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsy021.

Jaime Castrellon's External Site