Graduate Students

Xiaolei Deng

Xiaolei is a PhD student in UBC Psychology’s clinical program. He graduated from UBC with an MA in psychology in 2017.

Xiaolei’s research centers on the prediction of problematic gamblers using machine learning algorithms with applications of big data. Xiaolei is interested in using behaviour variables to predict gamblers who are at risks of developing gambling addiction. The machine learning model can serve as a useful benchmark for other measures of problematic gambling and help refine the definition of problematic gamblers.

Xiaolei also hopes that this line of research can provide policy makers with applicable information, leading to better community protection and harm reduction.


Gabriel Brooks

Gabriel Brooks is a PhD student in Clinical Psychology, associated with the Centre for Gambling Research. His research focuses upon individual differences that may act as risk factors for problem gambling. Specifically, he has investigated the associations between schizotypal personality, gambling-related cognitive distortions, and gambling behavior. Clinically, he has an interest in the treatment of behavioral addictions such as gambling disorder and internet gaming disorder.



Spencer Murch

Spencer Murch is a PhD student at UBC’s Cognitive Science program. He is a graduate fellow of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Spencer’s research focuses on the experience of immersion during slot machine gambling. The phenomenon, related to concepts of flow and dissociation, is typically reported as a feeling of being “in the zone” while gambling and is a predictor of problem gambling risk. The goal of his studies, broadly speaking, is to identify meaningful predictors of immersion and problem gambling risk using cognitive tasks and advanced psychophysiological technologies like mobile eye tracking and non-invasive cardiac output.

Ultimately, Spencer hopes to reduce the incidence of gambling disorder associated with modern slot machine use.


Murch, W. S., Chu S. W. M. & Clark, L. (2017). Measuring the slot machine zone with attentional dual tasks and respiratory sinus arrhythmia. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 31(3):375-384. doi: 10.1037/adb0000251

Murch W. S. & Clark L., (2016). Games in the brain: Neural substrates of gambling addiction. The Neuroscientist. 22(5), 534-545. doi: 10.1177/1073858415591474


Mario Ferrari

Mario is a PhD student in UBC’s Clinical Psychology program. He attained his MA in Clinical Psychology from UBC in 2017.

Mario’s research interests broadly focus on hormones and gambling. The relationship between hormones and behavior is bidirectional. This means that hormones can affect the way we think and behave, but also that our thoughts and behaviour can influence our hormone levels. The aim of Mario’s research is to identify and examine how contextual elements in gambling games can potentially cause hormone levels to change, and how hormone fluctuations affect the way people gamble.

The overall aim of this research is to help understand how hormones may contribute problematic gambling behaviour.


Ke Zhang