Don Vaughn

Dr. Vaughn tries to understand and diagnose aspects of human consciousness using machine learning & neuroimaging (fMRI, DTI, “brain scans”, etc). How does a three-pound cluster of cells in our head generate our experience of the world?

  • How does the brain process empathy? How do the actions and beliefs of others modulate our empathy towards them?
  • Can we read the strength of your affiliation for a cause or ideology from your brain activity?
  • How ‘free’ are we to make choices? Does our brain chemistry, connections, and structure determine how much free will we have?
  • Can neuroimaging help clinicians treat individuals with mental disorders by identifying abnormal brain patterns?

Dr. Vaughn employs these techniques outside of neuroscience. In a collaboration with doctors at the David Geffen School of Medicine, he applied machine learning methods to a database of insurance claims to predict and prevent hospitalizations in patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The results of this analysis suggested a care pathway that could save Anthem up to 10% on hospitalization expenses related to managing IBD.

Dr. Vaughn’s passion is to make science engaging, accessible and relatable. As a QCBio Collaboratory Fellow, he teaches a seminar on modern statistical methods (permutations, machine learning, bootstrapping) to UCLA faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and students.