Ezequiel Morsella

Title(s)Assistant Adjunct Professor, Neurology
SchoolSchool of Medicine
Address350 Parnassus, #706
San Francisco CA 94117
ORCID ORCID Icon0000-0002-8649-5520 Additional info
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    Title(s)UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences

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    A theoretician and experimentalist in neuroscience, Ezequiel Morsella investigates the neural differences between the conscious and unconscious aspects of human action control. Such control requires a medley of high-level, executive functions. All of his publications, experimental paradigms, and theoretical developments concern the nature of involuntary (versus voluntary) "entry into consciousness."

    He carried out Ph.D. training at Columbia University and postdoctoral training at Yale University. Since his pre-college days, he has been focusing on the nature of the conscious (e.g., urges and working memory) and unconscious brain mechanisms in human action control. Morsella uses 'response interference paradigms,' including the Reflexive Imagery Task, to learn about the subjective aspects of action production (e.g., entry of urges into consciousness). He also uses 'delayed action tasks' to learn about the subjective aspects of working memory-based action control (e.g., imagery, sense of agency).

    In all of his projects, Morsella has examined the mechanisms underlying the involuntary entry of information into consciousness (“involuntary entry”, for short). He developed the Reflexive Imagery Task in order to illuminate the nature of such entry.

    In collaboration with Adam Gazzaley, Morsella is evaluating theoretical developments (e.g., Passive Frame Theory) regarding consciousness and the brain using behavioral and neuroimaging techniques. (Passive Frame Theory was introduced to the literature as a target article in Behavioral and Brain Sciences [see publication below].) In addition, with the assistance of the neurologist Stephen Krieger and colleagues at the UCSF Memory and Aging center, he is examining the implications of the theory for the study of disorders of awareness and disorders involving action selection (e.g., frontotemporal dementia).

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    1. The habituation of higher-order conscious processes: Evidence from mental arithmetic. Acta Psychol (Amst). 2023 Jun; 236:103922. Elsabbagh T, Wright-Wilson L, Brauer S, Morsella E. PMID: 37167660.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions:
    2. Involuntary refreshing of mental representations. Acta Psychol (Amst). 2022 Dec 24; 232:103819. Velasquez AG, Yankulova JK, White NA, Gazzaley A, Morsella E. PMID: 36571895.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions:    Fields:    
    3. Insuppressible cognitions in the reflexive imagery task: Insights and future directions. Front Psychol. 2022; 13:957359. Yankulova JK, Zacher LM, Velasquez AG, Dou W, Morsella E. PMID: 36312094; PMCID: PMC9596936.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions:
    4. Encapsulation and subjectivity from the standpoint of viewpoint theory. Behav Brain Sci. 2022 03 23; 45:e55. Morsella E, Velasquez AG, Yankulova JK, Li Y, Gazzaley A. PMID: 35319414.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions:    Fields:    Translation:Humans
    5. The Generation of Involuntary Mental Imagery in an Ecologically-Valid Task. Front Psychol. 2021; 12:759685. Velasquez AG, Gazzaley A, Toyoda H, Ziegler DA, Morsella E. PMID: 34744937; PMCID: PMC8570302.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 1  
    6. EEG Correlates of Involuntary Cognitions in the Reflexive Imagery Task. Front Psychol. 2020; 11:482. Dou W, Allen AK, Cho H, Bhangal S, Cook AJ, Morsella E, Geisler MW. PMID: 32273863; PMCID: PMC7113402.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 2  
    7. Conscious contents: Their unanalyzable, arbitrary, and unarbitrary properties. Cogn Neuropsychol. 2020 May - Jun; 37(3-4):187-189. Yankulova JK, Morsella E. PMID: 32066319.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions:    Fields:    Translation:Humans
    8. Involuntary attentional shifts as a function of set and processing fluency. Acta Psychol (Amst). 2020 Feb; 203:103009. Gardner K, Walker EB, Li Y, Gazzaley A, Morsella E. PMID: 31982777.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 1     Fields:    Translation:Humans
    9. Involuntary mental rotation and visuospatial imagery from external control. Conscious Cogn. 2019 10; 75:102809. Cushing D, Gazzaley A, Morsella E. PMID: 31522028.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 3     Fields:    Translation:Humans
    10. Involuntary Entry Into Consciousness From the Activation of Sets: Object Counting and Color Naming. Front Psychol. 2018; 9:1017. Bhangal S, Merrick C, Cho H, Morsella E. PMID: 29977217; PMCID: PMC6021744.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 3  
    11. Involuntary polymodal imagery involving olfaction, audition, touch, taste, and vision. Conscious Cogn. 2018 07; 62:9-20. Dou W, Li Y, Geisler MW, Morsella E. PMID: 29709666.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 2     Fields:    Translation:Humans
    12. The reflexive imagery task: An experimental paradigm for neuroimaging. AIMS Neurosci. 2018; 5(2):97-115. Cho H, Dou W, Reyes Z, Geisler MW, Morsella E. PMID: 32341954.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions:
    13. The reflexive imagery task: An experimental paradigm for neuroimaging. AIMS Neurosci. 2018; 5(2):97-115. Cho H, Dou W, Reyes Z, Geisler MW, Morsella E. PMID: 32341955; PMCID: PMC7181890.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 1  
    14. Externally controlled involuntary cognitions and their relations with other representations in consciousness. Conscious Cogn. 2017 10; 55:1-10. Cushing D, Gazzaley A, Morsella E. PMID: 28735212.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 3     Fields:    Translation:Humans
    15. Metacognition of Working Memory Performance: Trial-by-Trial Subjective Effects from a New Paradigm. Front Psychol. 2016; 7:927. Garcia AC, Bhangal S, Velasquez AG, Geisler MW, Morsella E. PMID: 27445897; PMCID: PMC4914569.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 1  
    16. Competition between Cognitive Control and Encapsulated, Unconscious Inferences: Are Aha-Experiences Special? Front Psychol. 2016; 7:626. Cushing D, Velasquez AG, Morsella E. PMID: 27199854; PMCID: PMC4852294.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions:
    17. Involuntary symbol manipulation (Pig Latin) from external control: Implications for thought suppression. Acta Psychol (Amst). 2016 May; 166:37-41. Cho H, Zarolia P, Gazzaley A, Morsella E. PMID: 27043254.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 5     Fields:    Translation:HumansAnimals
    18. Conscious contents as reflexive processes: Evidence from the habituation of high-level cognitions. Conscious Cogn. 2016 Apr; 41:177-88. Bhangal S, Allen AK, Geisler MW, Morsella E. PMID: 26946295.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 4     Fields:    Translation:Humans
    19. Passive frame theory: A new synthesis. Behav Brain Sci. 2016 Jan; 39:e199. Morsella E, Godwin CA, Jantz TK, Krieger SC, Gazzaley A. PMID: 28355823.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 1     Fields:    Translation:HumansCells
    20. Homing in on consciousness in the nervous system: An action-based synthesis. Behav Brain Sci. 2016 Jan; 39:e168. Morsella E, Godwin CA, Jantz TK, Krieger SC, Gazzaley A. PMID: 26096599.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 22     Fields:    Translation:Humans
    21. Ironic effects as reflexive responses: Evidence from word frequency effects on involuntary subvocalizations. Acta Psychol (Amst). 2015 Jul; 159:33-40. Bhangal S, Merrick C, Morsella E. PMID: 26005914.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 4     Fields:    Translation:Humans
    22. External control of the stream of consciousness: Stimulus-based effects on involuntary thought sequences. Conscious Cogn. 2015 May; 33:217-25. Merrick C, Farnia M, Jantz TK, Gazzaley A, Morsella E. PMID: 25636006.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 5     Fields:    Translation:Humans
    23. Internally generated conscious contents: interactions between sustained mental imagery and involuntary subvocalizations. Front Psychol. 2014; 5:1445. Cho H, Godwin CA, Geisler MW, Morsella E. PMID: 25566126; PMCID: PMC4269111.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 6  
    24. Subjective aspects of working memory performance: memoranda-related imagery. Conscious Cogn. 2014 Apr; 25:88-100. Jantz TK, Tomory JJ, Merrick C, Cooper S, Gazzaley A, Morsella E. PMID: 24583457.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 2     Fields:    Translation:Humans
    25. The olfactory system as the gateway to the neural correlates of consciousness. Front Psychol. 2014 Jan 10; 4:1011. Merrick C, Godwin CA, Geisler MW, Morsella E. PMID: 24454300; PMCID: PMC3887364.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 13  
    26. he subjective effort of everyday mental tasks: Attending, assessing, and choosing. Motivation and Emotion. 2014; 38:832-843. Robinson, M. M., & Morsella, E.
    27. Conscious thoughts from reflex-like processes: a new experimental paradigm for consciousness research. Conscious Cogn. 2013 Dec; 22(4):1318-31. Allen AK, Wilkins K, Gazzaley A, Morsella E. PMID: 24056177.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 6     Fields:    Translation:Humans
    28. The inevitable contrast: Conscious vs. unconscious processes in action control. Front Psychol. 2013; 4:590. Morsella E, Poehlman TA. PMID: 24058351; PMCID: PMC3767904.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 4  
    29. Neural correlates of the essence of conscious conflict: fMRI of sustaining incompatible intentions. Exp Brain Res. 2013 Sep; 229(3):453-65. Gray JR, Bargh JA, Morsella E. PMID: 23727827.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 3     Fields:    Translation:Humans
    30. Representations in working memory yield interference effects found with externally-triggered representations. Acta Psychol (Amst). 2013 Jan; 142(1):127-35. Hubbard J, Rigby T, Godwin CA, Gazzaley A, Morsella E. PMID: 23277339.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 2     Fields:    Translation:HumansCTClinical Trials
    31. Adaptive skeletal muscle action requires anticipation and "conscious broadcasting". Front Psychol. 2012; 3:369. Poehlman TA, Jantz TK, Morsella E. PMID: 23264766; PMCID: PMC3525316.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 3  
    32. Traditional response interference effects from anticipated action outcomes: a response-effect compatibility paradigm. Acta Psychol (Amst). 2011 Sep; 138(1):106-10. Hubbard J, Gazzaley A, Morsella E. PMID: 21658661.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 6     Fields:    Translation:Humans
    33. Did I read or did I name? Diminished awareness of processes yielding identical 'outputs'. Conscious Cogn. 2011 Dec; 20(4):1776-80. Molapour T, Berger CC, Morsella E. PMID: 21450491.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 2     Fields:    Translation:Humans
    34. Cognitive and neural components of the phenomenology of agency. Neurocase. 2011 Jun; 17(3):209-30. Morsella E, Berger CC, Krieger SC. PMID: 20830644.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 7     Fields:    Translation:Humans
    35. Mind control? Creating illusory intentions through a phony brain-computer interface. Conscious Cogn. 2010 Dec; 19(4):1007-12. Lynn MT, Berger CC, Riddle TA, Morsella E. PMID: 20542711.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 3     Fields:    Translation:Humans
    36. Sources of avoidance motivation: Valence effects from physical effort and mental rotation. Motiv Emot. 2011 Sep; 35(3):296-305. Morsella E, Feinberg GH, Cigarchi S, Newton JW, Williams LE. PMID: 21957322; PMCID: PMC3168740.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 3  
    37. Subjective aspects of cognitive control at different stages of processing. Atten Percept Psychophys. 2009 Nov; 71(8):1807-24. Morsella E, Wilson LE, Berger CC, Honhongva M, Gazzaley A, Bargh JA. PMID: 19933564; PMCID: PMC2784665.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 20     Fields:    Translation:Humans
    38. The essence of conscious conflict: subjective effects of sustaining incompatible intentions. Emotion. 2009 Oct; 9(5):717-28. Morsella E, Gray JR, Krieger SC, Bargh JA. PMID: 19803593; PMCID: PMC2762124.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 13     Fields:    Translation:Humans
    39. Minimal neuroanatomy for a conscious brain: homing in on the networks constituting consciousness. Neural Netw. 2010 Jan; 23(1):14-5. Morsella E, Krieger SC, Bargh JA. PMID: 19716260; PMCID: PMC2787707.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 8     Fields:    Translation:Humans
    40. The Unconscious Mind. Perspect Psychol Sci. 2008 Jan; 3(1):73-9. Bargh JA, Morsella E. PMID: 18584056; PMCID: PMC2440575.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 92     Fields:    
    41. Supracortical consciousness: Insights from temporal dynamics, processing-content, and olfaction. Behav Brain Sci. 2007 May 01; 30(1):100. Morsella E, Bargh JA. PMID: 19696906; PMCID: PMC2729140.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions:    Fields:    
    42. THE PERVERSITY OF INANIMATE OBJECTS: STIMULUS CONTROL BY INCIDENTAL MUSICAL NOTATION. Soc Cogn. 2007 Apr; 25(2):267-283. Levine LR, Morsella E, Bargh JA. PMID: 18509502; PMCID: PMC2396757.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions:
    43. The function of phenomenal states: supramodular interaction theory. Psychol Rev. 2005 Oct; 112(4):1000-21. Morsella E. PMID: 16262477.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 54     Fields:    Translation:Humans
    44. Muscular activity in the arm during lexical retrieval: implications for gesture-speech theories. J Psycholinguist Res. 2005 Jul; 34(4):415-27. Morsella E, Krauss RM. PMID: 16142590.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 5     Fields:    Translation:Humans
    45. The role of gestures in spatial working memory and speech. Am J Psychol. 2004; 117(3):411-24. Morsella E, Krauss RM. PMID: 15457809.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 40     Fields:    Translation:HumansCTClinical Trials
    46. The function of phenomenal states: is there progress for the "softer problem" of consciousness? Psychol Rep. 2003 Oct; 93(2):435-40. Morsella E. PMID: 14650668.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 1     Fields:    Translation:Humans
    47. Evidence for a cascade model of lexical access in speech production. J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2002 May; 28(3):555-63. Morsella E, Miozzo M. PMID: 12018507.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 47     Fields:    Translation:Humans
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