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Dr. Paula Banca


I completed my MA in Psychology in 2005, at the University of Coimbra, Portugal. During the following 3 years, I worked as a clinical psychologist in an Institution for Social Solidarity while I was simultaneously studying Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Coimbra. In 2009, I started my PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience, at the Faculty of Medicine, Coimbra, Portugal, under the supervision of Professor Miguel Castelo-Branco. Two years later, after finishing my first neuroimaging study in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, I moved to Cambridge to work with Dr. Valerie Voon at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, where I conducted several studies in other compulsive disorders. After obtaining my PhD, in 2015, I moved back to Cambridge to work with Professor Trevor Robbins and Professor Barbara Sahakian.

Departments and Institutes

Research Associate

Research Interests

The inability to control inappropriate responses and flexibly adapt behaviour is a prominent feature of disorders of compulsivity. My research is aimed at understanding the neural mechanisms underlying action control with a view to develop more effective treatments in psychiatric diseases. I have a particular interest in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), although I have been also studying substance and behavioural addictions. I use psychological paradigms and neuroimaging techniques to investigate cognitive functions and different facets of compulsivity in both healthy humans and psychiatric patients.


  • neuroimaging
  • behaviour
  • psychiatry
  • neuroscience
  • psychopharmacology

Key Publications

Banca P, Voon V, Vestergaard MD, Philipiak G, Almeida I, Pocinho F, Relvas J and Castelo-Branco M (2015). Imbalance in habitual vs. goal directed neural systems during symptom provocation in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Brain, 138(3), 798-811. Doi: 10.1093/brain/awu379.

Banca P, Vestergaard MD, Rankov V, Baek K, Mitchell S, Lapa T, Castelo-Branco M, Voon V (2015). Evidence accumulation in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: the role of uncertainty and monetary reward on perceptual decision-making thresholds. Neuropsychopharmacology, 40(5),1192-202. Doi: 10.1038/npp.2014.303.

Banca P, Lange I, Worbe Y, Howell NA, Irvine M, Harrison NA, Moutoussis M, Voon V (2015). Reflection impulsivity in binge drinking: behavioural and volumetric correlates. Addiction Biology Doi: 10.1111/adb.12227.

Banca P, Sousa T, Catarina Duarte I, Castelo-Branco M (2015). Visual motion imagery neurofeedback based on the hMT+/V5 complex: evidence for a feedback-specific neural circuit involving neocortical and cerebellar regions. Journal of Neural Engineering.

Banca P, Morris LS, Mitchell S, Harrison NA, Potenza MN, Voon V (2015). Novelty, conditioning and attentional bias to sexual rewards. Journal of Psychiatric Research. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2015.10.017.