Jaime Castrellon


jaime castrellon

Assistant Professor
Ph.D.: Duke University
Primary Area: Social and Affective Neuroscience
Secondary Area: Behavioral Neuroscience
Email: jcastrellon@psych.ucla.edu
Lab Website: https://www.castrellonlab.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.

My lab studies 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 reviewing graduate student applications to join the lab in Fall 2025 through the Social and Affective Neuroscience area and the Behavioral Neuroscience area. Please get in touch if you are interested in joining as a graduate student or as a postdoctoral scholar.


Jaime Castrellon is an Assistant Professor with an affiliation in the Chicano Studies Research Center. He completed his Ph.D. in Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University where he studied the role of dopamine in reward valuation and decision making. He then conducted a postdoctoral fellowship 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 Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

Castrellon Lab Website