Leverhulme Doctoral Training Programme
for the Ecological Study of the Brain 


Launching the Leverhulme Doctoral Training Programme for the Ecological Study of the Brain

Leverhulme Doctoral Training Centre for the Study of the Brain

ECOLOGICAL BRAIN is a cross-disciplinary 4-years PhD programme that will train students in the study of the brain in real-world contexts.

Understanding how humans operates in the real-world, the ecological niche in which the brain has evolved, is critical to explaining the richness of human experiences. Most scientific knowledge about brain and behaviour, however, comes from laboratory studies focusing on a single domain (e.g., language processing) and sacrifice real-world context to achieve experimental control (e.g., recognition of isolated words rather than face-to-face communication). At the other end of the spectrum, scholars studying real-world phenomena often sacrifice experimental control in order to conduct studies in naturalistic settings. Laboratory experiments, however, often have limited external validity, while naturalistic approaches are descriptive, therefore do not address causal relationships between brain, behaviour and the environment.

The Leverhulme Doctoral Training Programme for the Ecological Study of the Brain (ECOLOGICAL BRAIN DTP) will train the next generation of scientists in the study of the brain and behaviour in real-world contexts. It marshals  a change in approach to brain and behavioural research that enables future leaders to harness and further develop new methods and technologies – part of the  digital revolution – to measure behaviour and brain activity in the wild (e.g., wearable devices and wireless electroencephalography), to bring real-world complexity in the lab (e.g., virtual and augmented reality, large-scale modifiable real-world facilities) and to analyse the wealth of data these methods produce (e.g., blind signal source separation, graph-theoretic analysis). ECOLOGICAL BRAIN proposes to deliver such a change moving from established patterns of working within single disciplines to an integrative science approach that brings together psychology, neuroscience, education, geography, computer science, engineering and architecture to bridge the gap between basic scientific discovery, and the application of this knowledge.

The executive for the DTP includes:

Gabriella Vigliocco (Lead, Experimental Psychology)

Hugo Spiers (Experimental Psychology)

Mirco Musolesi (Geography)

Nick Tyler (Civil Engineering)

Andy Hudson-Smith (Bartlett)

Anthony Steed (Computer Science)

Eirini Flouri (Institute of Education)

Yvonne Rogers (Computer Science)

The programme will start in October 2018, thanks to funding from the Leverhulme Trust and from UCL.