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Pearl Chiu, Ph.D.

Pearl Chiu, Ph.D.

Patricia Caldwell Faculty Fellow

Pearl Chiu, Ph.D. headshot

"Computer science and mathematics have given us new tools to understand how the brain learns. We used these tools to study whether and how learning might play a role in mental health."


Decoding the experience of being human

How can we quantify human motivation, emotion, and social behaviors?

Pearl Chiu, Ph.D., works at the forefront of an emerging field called Computational Psychiatry. She studies the neuroscience underlying human motivation and social decision-making to understand how these processes are altered by mental illness. 

Dr. Chiu’s research combines multiple methods, including behavioral assessments, clinical interviews, self-report, computational modeling, and functional neuroimaging. Her laboratory examines how humans make choices, and how decision-making is affected by mental health disorders, such as depression, addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder, and autism. These studies will help her team develop biologically-informed interventions to help people overcome decision-making impairments caused by disease.

  • Professor, Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC
  • Patricia Caldwell Faculty Fellow
  • Professor, Department of Psychology, College of Science
  • Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, School of Medicine

Chung D, Christopoulus GI, King-Casas B, Ball SB, Chiu PH. (2015). Social signals of safety and risk confer utility and have asymmetric effects on observers' choices. Nature Neuroscience 18(6): 912-916.

Zhu L, Jenkins AC, Set E, Scabini D, Knight RT, Chiu PH, King-Casas B, Hsu M. (2014). Damage to dorsolateral prefrontal cortex affects tradeoffs between honesty and self-interest. Nature Neuroscience 17(10): 1319-21.

White SW, Mazefsky CA, Dichter GS, Chiu PH, Richey JA, Ollendick TH. (2014). Social-cognitive, physiological, and neural mechanisms underlying emotion regulation impairments: Understanding anxiety in autism spectrum disorder. International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience.

Baylor College of Medicine
Assistant Professor, Neuroscience and Psychiatry

  • Baylor College of Medicine: Postdoctoral fellowship
  • Harvard University: Ph.D., Psychology (Clinical Psychology, Experimental Psychopathology)
  • Source of the Week, National Public Radio, 2015
  • Scholar of the Week, Virginia Tech, 2012
  • Biobehavioral Research Award for Innovative New Scientists (BRAINS), National Institute of Mental Health, 2010
  • American Psychological Association Diversity in Neuroscience Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2006
  • Dissertation Completion Merit Fellowship, Harvard University, 2004
  • Student Poster Award, Society for Psychophysiological Research, 2004
  • Harvard University Graduate Society Dissertation Merit Fellowship, 2003
  • Sackler Fellowship in Psychobiology, 2001
  • Vincent Prize, 2001
  • Bok Certificate of Distinction in Teaching, Harvard University, 2001
  • Stimson Prize for Research, Harvard University, 2000
  • Certificate in Mind, Brain, Behavior, Harvard University, 1998
  • John Harvard Certificate of Merit, Harvard University, 1998


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