Sijia Zhao

Hi, I'm Sijia Zhao

赵思家 Pronounced as see-jar zao.

I am a postdoc with Prof. Masud Husain at University of Oxford, investigating the mechanisms underlying fatigue, motivation and apathy in both health and disease.

Before coming to Oxford, I did BSc Neuroscience, MSc Computer Science and my PhD (with Prof Maria Chait and Prof Fred Dick), all at University College London.

I love neuromodulation. My phd was about the role of noradrenaline in auditory cognition, and now I am in Oxford learning about dopamine!

As a contributor to Pavlovia and PsychoJS, I consider myself a hardcore fan of online behavioural testing. Try out our cognitive battery at If you are curious about how to run auditory online test, read this.

I was a popular science writer since 2013. I published three hard copy books in China and few e-books. I think I have done a great job so I retired from writing in 2022.

I really care about what it means by being academic. Being a female, being a foreigner, being a mother and being a researcher are all quite challenging. Thankfully, I do enjoy these challenges now. I am very keen to promote the awareness of the life of PhD students and postdocs. Listen to "Research as a Lifestyle! 科研这种生活方式!" on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. I hate saying superficially positive stuff. Let’s be realistic.


Zhao S, Liu Y, Wei K, 2022. Pupil-Linked Arousal Response Reveals Aberrant Attention Regulation among Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Neuroscience.
Zhao S, Shibata K, Hellyer PJ, Trender W, Manohar S, Hampshire A, & Husain M. (2022). Rapid vigilance and episodic memory decrements in COVID-19 survivors. Brain Communications.
Benhamou E, Zhao S, Sivasathiaseelan H, Johnson JCS, Requena-Komuro M-C, Bond RL, van Leeuwen JEP, Russell LL, Greaves CV, Nelson A, Nicholas JM, Hardy CJD, Rohrer JD, Warren JD (2021). Decoding expectation and surprise in dementia: the paradigm of music. Brain Communications. Brain Communications.
Zhao S, Brown CA, Holt LL, & Dick F. (2022). Robust and Efficient Online Auditory Psychophysics. Trends in Hearing.
Milne AE*, Bianco R*, Poole KC*, Zhao S*, Billig AJ, Chait M, (2020). An online headphone screening test based on dichotic pitch. Behavior Research Methods. ( * equal contribution )
Zhao S, Chait M, Dick F, Dayan P, Furukawa S, Liao H-I, 2019a. Pupil-linked phasic arousal evoked by violation but not emergence of regularity within rapid sound sequences. Nature Communications 10, 1–16.
Zhao S, Yum NW, Benjamin L, Benhamou E, Yoneya M, Furukawa S, Dick F, Slaney M, Chait M, 2019b. Rapid Ocular Responses Are Modulated by Bottom-up-Driven Auditory Salience. Journal of Neuroscience 39, 7703–7714.
Zhao S, Bury G, Milne A, Chait M, 2019. Pupillometry as an Objective Measure of Sustained Attention in Young and Older Listeners. Trends in Hearing 23, 2331216519887815.
Jagiello R, Pomper U, Yoneya M, Zhao S, Chait M, 2019. Rapid Brain Responses to Familiar vs. Unfamiliar Music – an EEG and Pupillometry study. Scientific Report 9, 1–13.

What's new

💬 I will co-chair the symposium Neurologic of COVID at British Neuroscience Association 2023 in Brighton and talk about some cool (but worrying) objective cognitive testing data about post-COVID cognitive deficits.
🏆 Got three rewards in popular science in China. Lazy to translate those titles. But one of them came with an amazing trophy! (post on twitter)
💬 My honor to speak at Neuromodulatory systems in auditory processing in SCAN (Symposium for Cognitive Auditory Neuroscience). My presentation title is "The Role of Norepinephrine in Auditory Perception".
📜 My pupillometry paper on autism is published on Journal of Neuroscience!
👶 My baby #2 is born this spring. She is Lily. Her Chinese name is 百荷; it means "hundreds of lotuses". She is very cute. Now, I am a mother of two under two.
📖 I published two new books in China this month. Very happy with them. I'm calling it quits on popular scientific writing for the time being.
💡 Running auditory experiments online and want to find a way to set sound presentation levels for your online participants? Here is a must-read: Zhao et al. (2022). Robust and Efficient Online Auditory Psychophysics. on Trends in Hearing. The sound volume setting task is available on Pavlovia and Gorilla
👶 Something personal… After a few academic babies, I now have a biological baby. Preferred citation: Zhao and Chan (2020) Yurika Zhao. Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea Hospital, London.
Thinking of running online experiments with sounds? Want to confirm that listeners are wearing headphone? Try our new headphone screening test! Read our paper for more details. And if you use Pavlovia, I made a website to add the test automatically for you!
I am starting my new post-doc at Masud's lab at University of Oxford! Excited to learn new things about decision-making, motivation, dopamine and Parkinson's disease.
Attending Interdisciplinary Advances in Statistical Learning 2019 in San Sebastian, Spain, supported by a travel grant from the Guarantors of Brain. I will present a poster (#PS-3.19) between 11:20–12:40 on Saturday 29th June at the Miramar Palace.
Attending Biology of Decision Making (SBDM) at University of Oxford, England. I will present a poster (#123) on Wednesday. Come along if you are interested in pupil dilation and/or uncertainty!
Attending Attention to Sound organised by The Royal Society at Chicheley Hall, Newport Pagnell, England.
I was awarded with Brain Travel Award to present my poster Sensitivity to Pattern Changes in Rapid, Stochastic Tone Sequences at the 8th Mismatch Negativity conference in Helsinki, Finland.
I passed my viva with no corrections! Yay!
Presenting my poster at Cognitive Neuroscience Society in Boston, US. Met my academic grandpa David Poeppel (Maria's PhD supervisor).
My book Guide to the Brain is now also available in Traditional Chinese, in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.
Gave a lecture on pupillometry to PhD students from INTERLEARN, Center for Brain and Cognitive Development at Birkbeck, University of London.
Presenting my work at the International Conference on Auditory Cortex in Banff, Alberta, Canada.
Presenting three posters at the 2017 Association for Research in Otolaryngology (ARO), in Baltimore, US. ARO is one of the biggest conference for auditory guys (like me).
Academic visit at NTT, Atsugi, Japan.
My popular neuroscience book 大腦使用指南 (Guide to the Brain) is published in China! It’s the first neuroscience book written by a mainland writer (me!).
Gave my first talk at 2016 ARO, in San Diego, US.
Starting PhD in Auditory Neuroscience at UCL Ear Institute, supervised by Maria Chait and Fred Dick.

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© 2020 Sijia Zhao