Image

Leverhulme Doctoral Training Programme
for the Ecological Study of the Brain
(ECOLOGICAL BRAIN DTP)


Image
ECOLOGICAL BRAIN is a cross-disciplinary initiative that investigates brain and behaviour in the real world. Supervisors come from five different Faculties at UCL: The Faculty of Brain Sciences, The Faculty of Engineering, The Institute of Education, The Faculty of Historical and Social Sciences, the Bartlett School of Architecture.
 

Roles



Supervisors          Students          Management Team

Image

Ecological Brain Programme Director, Professor of Psychology of Language, Department of Experimental Psychology


Gabriella is Professor of the Psychology of Language at UCL. She jointly leads the Institute of Multimodal Communication, which is devoted to the understanding of the behavioural and brain mechanisms that allow humans to communicate with one another in the real world. Within the Institute, Gabriella directs the Language and Cognition Laboratory (http://www.language-cognition-lab.org/). She uses methods from psychology, neuroscience and computational modelling and seeks converging evidence from different languages and populations: adults, children, deaf individuals using sign language, and people with aphasia.Throughout the years, she contributed and led a shift in the fields of Psychology, Neuroscience and Linguistics from studying language as a symbolic capacity, evolved, learnt and use separately from the rest of human cognition, to one in which language is grounded in basic sensorimotor functions and that needs to be studied in its ecological niche.

Image

Ecological Brain Programme Deputy Director, Reader in Neuroscience, Department of Experimental Psychology


Prof Hugo Spiers is a Reader in Neuroscience in the Department of Experimental Psychology. He is the group leader of the Spatial Cognition group in the UCL Institute of Behavioural Neuroscience and Director of Science at The Centric Lab Ltd. Prof Spiers has combined numerous methods to explore spatial cognition from single cells to whole brain networks. His research focuses on how the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex contribute to recall of the past, navigation of present and imagination of the future.

Image

Ecological Brain Programme Deputy Director, Reader in Data Science, Department of Geography


Mirco Musolesi is a Reader (equivalent to an Associate Professor in the North-American system) in Data Science at the Department of Geography at University College London and a Turing Fellow at the Alan Turing Institute. At UCL he leads the Intelligent Social Systems Lab. He is a computer scientist with a strong interest in sensing, modelling, understanding and predicting human behaviour and social dynamics in space and time, at different scales, using the "digital traces" we generate daily in our online and offline lives. He is interested in developing mathematical and computational models as well as implementing real-world systems based on them. More details about his research profile can be found at: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~ucfamus/

Image

Lecturer in Spatial Data Science and Visualisation, The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis


Dr Anahid Basiri is a Lecturer in Spatial Data Science and Visualisation at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA). Before joining CASA Ana was a European Research Council (ERC) Fellow at the University of Southampton (2016-2017), Marie Curie Fellow at the University of Nottingham (2013-2016) and Postdoc research fellow at Maynooth University (2012-2013). She has worked on several projects to do with understanding interactions of people with the environment by studying their movements. Her main research interest is mainly to do with inferring knowledge from datasets with some levels of uncertainty, for example, crowd-sourced (e.g. trajectories of movements) which are usually biased. She aims to use the lack of data as an indication of some hypothesis and try to combine different sources and datasets to handle the data uncertainty.

Image

Associate Professor in the Institute of Behavioural Neuroscience and Department of Experimental Psychology


Daniel Bendor is an Associate Professor in the Institute of Behavioural Neuroscience and Department of Experimental Psychology. His current research focuses on how information is encoded by our brain, specifically within the context of auditory perception, memory consolidation, and sleep, using a combination of large-scale electrophysiological, molecular-genetic and computational tools. More details about his research can be found here: https://bendorlab.wordpress.com

 
Image

Professor in Affective Computing and Interaction, UCL Interaction Centre


Nadia Bianchi-Berthouze is a Full Professor in Affective Computing and Interaction at the UCL Interaction Centre (UCLIC). Her research focuses on designing technology that can sense the affective state of its users and use that information to tailor the interaction process. She has pioneered the field of Affective Computing and for more than a decade she has investigated body movement and more recently touch behaviour as means to recognize and measure the quality of the user experience in ecological settings. She also studies how full-body technology and body sensory feedback can be used to modulate people’s perception of their own body and of their own physical capabilities to improve self-efficacy and self-esteem. She has published more than 200 papers in Affective Computing, HCI, and Pattern Recognition. She was awarded the 2003 Technical Prize from the Japanese Society of Kansei Engineering and she has given a TEDxStMartin talk (2012).

Image

Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience, Director of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, Institute of Neurology


Neil Burgess is Director of the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience. Neil studied Maths and Physics at UCL and Theoretical Physics at Manchester, where he began modelling working memory with Graham Hitch. He returned to UCL to work with John O’Keefe, creating models and experiments concerning how neurons represent space and support memory. With Tom Hartley and Colin Lever he predicted and discovered neurons representing environmental boundaries. With Sue Becker he proposed the first model explaining how neurons in the hippocampal system support coherent spatial imagery. Since the mid 1990’s Neil has pioneered the use of virtual reality to understand how the brain supports spatial and episodic memory in everyday situations, including naturalistic environments and the presence of multi-modal and emotionally salient contents. He is a Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow, Fellow of the UK Academy of Medical Sciences and the Royal Society.

Image

Professor of Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience, UCL Ear Institute


Maria Chait is a Professor of auditory Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London. Work in her laboratory, at the interface between cognitive and ‘systems’ neuroscience, is using behavioural methods, eye tracking and functional brain imaging (MEG, EEG and fMRI) to understand the role of the auditory system as the brain’s early warning system and to determine how listeners use sounds to learn about, and efficiently interact with their surroundings. Her research can be found at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/ear/research/chaitlab/

 
Image

Professor of Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience, Director of Birbeck-UCL Centre for Neuroimaging

My work is in large part directed at understanding how the acquisition of complex skills (like spoken language) build on domain-general skills and neural resources. A prevalent assumption is that language learning and use relies on highly specific neural processes. We have shown that multiple aspects of language development, learning, and breakdown are intimately linked with variations in more species-general abilities, such as auditory scene analysis of natural soundscapes and oromotor sequencing abilities. Many of the neural resources underlying processing of complex sensorimotor tasks are shared with analogous tasks performed with language. We have also shown that expertise in different non-linguistic auditory skills strongly shapes neuronal activation preferences in brain regions often cited as speech- and language-specific. To understand how higher-level, human-specific skills such as language emerge from a brain organized around sensorimotor lines, we have also developed novel neuroimaging methods that allow for direct comparisons with functional and myeloarchitectonic organisation in non-human primates.

Image

Professor of Psychology and Special Needs, Institute of Education


Professor of Psychology and Special Needs at UCL, IOE and qualified as both a clinical and educational psychologist. Her research interests are in patterns of language development and the ways in which oral language skills impact on children's learning, interaction and attainments. A central theme in this research has been the application of evidence based research to support children's learning and the ways in which environmental factors impact on learning and attainment. She has published widely in the areas of developmental difficulties and their impacts on learning and development. She was editor of the BJEP, associate editor for JSLHR, IJLCD and Learning and Instruction and Editor in Chief of Research in Developmental Disabilities. She was co-director of the Better Communication Research Programme and co PI on the current COST action - European Literacy network.

Placeholder
Image

Member of the Executive Board, Professor of Developmental Psychology, Institute of Education


Eirini is professor of developmental psychology at UCL Institute of Education. She has led many externally funded research projects on the role of environmental factors in child cognition and behaviour. At the moment she leads two ESRC grants on this topic and collaborates on another 2 (from the ESRC and the British Academy). She works with geographers, statisticians and engineers toward an understanding of the role of the physical environment (e.g., green space, ambient air pollution) for the developing brain. Much of her current research explores the biological mechanisms (e.g., inflammation) through which the physical and the social environment can affect cognition and behaviour. She also supervises externally-funded PhD studentships on this. Most of her related past work focussed on estimating neighbourhood and school effects on child development. That involved linking neighbourhood and school level data to individual level data from the UK birth cohort studies.

Image

Professor of Neuroscience, Wellcome Principal Research Fellow, and Honorary Consultant in Neuropsychiatry, Institute of Neurology


Karl Friston is a theoretical neuroscientist and authority on brain imaging. He invented statistical parametric mapping (SPM), voxel-based morphometry (VBM) and dynamic causal modelling (DCM). Friston currently works on models of functional integration in the human brain and the principles that underlie neuronal interactions. His main contribution to theoretical neurobiology is a free-energy principle for action and perception (active inference). Friston received the first Young Investigators Award in Human Brain Mapping (1996) and was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (1999). In 2000 he was President of the international Organization of Human Brain Mapping. In 2003 he was awarded the Minerva Golden Brain Award and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2006. In 2008 he received a Medal, College de France and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of York in 2011. He became of Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology in 2012, received the Weldon Memorial prize and Medal in 2013 for contributions to mathematical biology and was elected as a member of EMBO (excellence in the life sciences) in 2014 and the Academia Europaea in (2015). He was the 2016 recipient of the Charles Branch Award for unparalleled breakthroughs in Brain Research and the Glass Brain Award, a lifetime achievement award in the field of human brain mapping. He holds Honorary Doctorates from the University of Zurich and Radboud University.


Placeholder
Image

Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience


I am a senior research fellow at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience. My research focuses on the cognitive neuroscience of executive functions, memory, and social cognition, using behavioural, functional neuroimaging, and computational modelling approaches. A key theme of recent research is "intention offloading": How do we decide whether to use our own memory or set external reminders to remember delayed intentions? Answering this question can help us to understand how memory processes operate in the real world, and how they are augmented with external resources. As our cognitive processes become increasingly intertwined with external tools, resources, and technologies, studying these processes will play an important role in understanding adaptive human behaviour in everyday life.


Image

Professor of Computational Vision, Department of Computer Science


I use mathematical, computational and psychophysical methods to understand vision, and for applied image analysis (esp. security compass.cs.ucl.ac.uk/). I have wide interests in vision but especially image structure, colour vision, anomaly detection, object recognition and face perception. In recent years I have made increasing use of machine learning methods, including deep learning, but prefer the insight that derives from more explicit models. Image Structure: understanding visual processing as a form of differential calculus computed with non-infinitesimal operators; using those operators to probe the local symmetry type of image locations; organizing the results within an 'atlas'-like geometry of the visual field. Colour Vision: linking from materials (reflectance), through optics, sensation, perception (colours) to cognition (naming). What geometries can be operationalized for colour space, and what determines them? Why are the basic colour categories so universal?


 
Image

Reader in Social Neuroscience, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience


Dr Antonia Hamilton studies the brain and cognitive mechanisms of human nonverbal social interactions such as imitation and gaze. Her current work explores the interactions of two or more people using new technologies including virtual reality, motion capture, mobile eye tracking and fNIRS as well as more traditional approaches.


Image

Senior Lecturer, Department of Experimental Psychology


I am a psychologist specialising in Judgment and Decision Making. Much of my work concerns issues around the communication and perception of risk. I have been particularly interested in the relative benefits of communicating uncertainty information in verbal formats versus numerical formats (including combinations of both). This work has been undertaken with focusses on environmental risks, especially climate change and geological hazards, supported by ongoing collaborations with Climate Outreach and the British Geological Survey. Additionally, I have addressed the question of how to determine whether people are optimistic in their risk estimates. Investigation of the methods most prevalently used has found them to be unfit for purpose, thus I suggest that the evidence base for optimism is shakier than commonly believed. Understanding the true status of optimism is critical for designing effective risk communications, to enable them to address true reasons for people’s failure to take preventative actions.


Image

Senior Lecturer, Department of Computer Science


Catherine Holloway's research revolves around 'disability innovations'. The starting point for this is understanding the issues faced by disabled people. This can include navigating new cities, reading a book, or surfing the web. Disability is an exciting area, as disabled people are always looking to do things differently and get around barriers, and this makes for interesting problems. Current research which is linked to the ecological brain includes: understanding how people with dementia navigate every day indoor scenarios; measuring the cognitive load of using different wheelchairs in cities; developing new navigation aids for the blind which take account of how they perceive the world; investigating brain plasticity when using a '6th finger' to design better rehabilitation programmes; understanding how humans and robots interact.


Image

Member of the Executive Board, Professor of Digital Urban Systems and Director of The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis



Professor Andrew Hudson-Smith is Director of The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) at University College London. Andy is a Professor of Digital Urban Systems and Editor-in-Chief of Future Internet Journal, he is also an elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a member of the Greater London Authority Smart London Board. With a research focus on location based digital technologies he has been at the forefront of web technologies for communication, outreach and linked to the digital built environment. He has been a Co-I/Pi on over 20 research grants recent grant output focused on the Internet of Things and urban spaces. His contribution to knowledge and outreach in the fields of the Internet of Things, smart cities, big data, digital geography, urban planning and the built environment have been wide ranging with an impact strategy focused on policy, outreach and the public understanding of science. His research can be found at http://www.digitalurban.org or @digitalurban on Twitter

Image

Senior Lecturer, Institute of Neurology


Our lab explores how the brain weighs costs and benefits, and extracts environmental statistics to optimize behaviour. Answering these questions with traditional methods has been limited due to the rich nature of the world humans and animals live in. To answer these tough questions, we develop new techniques in our lab to facilitate behavioural training and electrophysiological recordings. We have successfully implemented fully automated in-cage training of NHPs allowing for continuous behavioural training of a diversity of complex behavioural tasks. We utilise high density electrodes to record many neurons from multiple brain regions simultaneously. This allows us to use more complex tasks that better simulate real-world complexity, and to analyse high-dimensional neural population data encoding features of the complex tasks and behavioural output. Finally, in collaboration with Prof. Tim Behrens, we run analogous experiments with human fMRI to translate ground-truth single-neuron data to understand human brain function.

Placeholder
Image

Professor of Cognitive and Decision Sciences, Department of Experimental Psychology


Brad Love is Professor of Cognitive and Decision Sciences at UCL and a Turing Fellow at the Alan Turing Institute, the UK's national institute for data science and artificial intelligence. He works at the intersection of Neuroscience, Experimental Psychology, and Machine Learning. Current interests include linking models of cognition to brain function, and combining big data and psychological theory to understand consumer behaviour. Lately, his laboratory has been using deep learning approaches, which are suited to complex data types (e.g., real-world imagery and language use), to bridge these interests.

Image

Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, Institute of Neurology


Eleanor Maguire has spent her career studying the human brain using ecological tasks. She has defined a genre of neuroimaging studies that use innovative naturalistic paradigms. This includes combining virtual reality with brain imaging to study spatial navigation in buildings and in cities, and by leveraging 'real-world experiments' involving licensed London taxi drivers who acquire 'the Knowledge' of London's layout. She has also pioneered the investigation of how our real-life experiences are captured in autobiographical memories, and how the human brain supports their reall even decades after the original memories were encoded. Her work has been consistently funded over the last twenty years. Her lab is highly productive in terms of research outputs, and she has won numerous prizes and awards. This includes being elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Image

Professor of Psychology, Language and Education, Institute of Education


Chloe is a Professor of Psychology, Language and Education. A central theme in her research is how children acquire language and literacy in challenging circumstances. She has studied language and literacy development in children with developmental language disorder, dyslexia and autism, as well as typically-developing children. She has also studied deaf children’s sign language and cognitive development. A more recent research interest is in hearing adults who are acquiring a sign language, and in particular what they are able to learn in uninstructed and instructed contexts. She is Editor-in-Chief of the journal First Language, and is joint programme leader for the MA/MSc Educational Neuroscience awarded by Birkbeck and the Institute of Education. Chloe holds a BSc(Hons) in Biology and worked as a Montessori teacher and teacher-trainer for 6 years before she came to UCL in 2000 to study for a MA Linguistics followed by a PhD in Human Communication Science.

Placeholder
Image

Professor of Architecture and Spatial Design, The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis


Sophia Psarra is a Professor of Architecture and Spatial Design at the Bartlett School of Architecture and Associate Editor of the Journal of Space Syntax. In her research she uses computer modeling of spatial characteristics to analyse spatial layouts in relation to social, cultural, cognitive and organizational performance. This analysis is combined with empirical data of users' activity to provide a detailed account of the relationship between spatial layout and human exploration patterns in different building types and urban environments. She has collaborated with leading cultural institutions on layout design and visitors' experience (The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA New York, The Natural History Museum, London, The Burrell Collection, Glasgow, The Art Gallery and Museum, Kelvingrove, Glasgow, The Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, and The Manchester City Art Gallery). In 2007 she led an interdisciplinary studio collaborating with neuroscientists on the relationship between space, memory, music and dance ('Arts and the Brain') in the context of the 'Arts on Earth' initiative, in the University of Michigan.

Image

Professor of Evolution and Behaviour, Department of Experimental Psychology


Nichola Raihani is Professor of Evolution and Behaviour, a Royal Society University Research Fellow and PI of the Social Evolution and Behaviour Lab in the Department of Experimental Psychology, UCL. She is also an Executive Team Member of the UCL bid for a Leverhulme-funded ECOLOGICAL BRAIN centre. Nichola's work asks how cooperation evolves in nature and what mechanisms support cooperation among unrelated individuals, with a strong emphasis on how behaviour can be understood from an ecologically relevant perspective. To address this question, she works on a variety of model systems, including humans and non-human species, and uses different methods (real-world datasets, large-N behavioural experiments, theoretical modelling). She has published 60+ articles in top international journals, including Science, Current Biology, Psychological Medicine and Proceedings B. Nichola uses behavioural insights to help many external organisations (corporations, charities, public sector bodies) to enhance prosocial behaviour in real-world settings.

Image

Reader in Cognitive Science, Department of Experimental Psychology


Daniel is a Reader in Experimental Psychology at University College London. Prior to that, he was an undergraduate at Magdalen College, Oxford, a graduate student at Cornell, a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford, and an assistant professor at the UC Santa Cruz. His research examines how individuals' thought processes are related to the people around them. He has authored many scientific articles in cognitive, developmental and social psychology. He received two Provost's Teaching Awards from UCL, and has performed shows at the London Science Museum and Bloomsbury theatre combining science, music and live experiments on the group mind of the audience. Recently he wrote the popular science book Man versus Mind.

Image

Reader in Experimental Psychology, Department of Experimental Psychology


After studying at the University of Cambridge and the University of Edinburgh, Dr Rodd moved to UCL in 2003. She is currently a Reader in Experimental Psychology. She conducts research into the factors that contribute to skilled language comprehension. Her research emphasizes the critical role of learning mechanisms for skilled language comprehension. She has a particular interest in understanding how an individual's idiosyncratic linguistic environment and their individual cognitive/neural learning mechanisms interact to produce variation in linguistic abilities. She has studied language processing using a range of methods including web-based experiments, computational modelling, and neuroimaging techniques such as fMRI and MEG. The use of ecological valid stimuli and learning environments is key component to her research. She believes that interdisciplinary approaches are key to making advances in this area. She is currently focused on building collaborations with education researchers and teachers to explore the contributions of schools/nurseries to vocabulary development.

Image

Member of the Executive Board, Professor of Interaction Design and Director of UCL Interaction Centre, Department of Computer Science


Since 2011, Yvonne Rogers has been the director of UCLIC and a deputy head of the Computer Science Department. Her areas of research traverses Human-Computer Interaction, ubiquitous computing and behavioural change. She has developed new theories (e.g., external cognition), alternative methodologies (e.g., in the wild studies) and far-reaching research agendas (e.g., "Being Human: HCI in 2020" that outlined future challenges for Ubiquitous Computing). She has conducted seminal studies on technology interventions to deliver sustainable behavioural change in healthcare and energy use. Her work established "research in the wild" within ubiquitous computing moving the ubiquitous computing community from an emphasis of lab-based research to real world deployment. She was a founding PI of the Intel Collaborative Research Institute on Sustainable Connected Cities that investigated use case inspired basic research activity into the compute fabric needed to support the design of an urban Internet of Things at city scale.

Image

Reader in Social and Spatial Networks, The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis


Dr Kerstin Sailer is Reader in Social and Spatial Networks at the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London. She investigates the impact of spatial design on people and social behaviours inside a range of complex buildings such as offices, laboratories, hospitals and schools. A particular focus of her work lies on social behaviours such as interaction and encounters, but also how people perceive spaces, how they make choices in buildings (where to move, where to dwell, where to sit) and the associated experience of visibility. An architect by training, her research interests combine the study of spatial layouts using Space Syntax methodologies with space usage behaviours, social networks, organisational theory and psychology.

Image

PROF TALI SHAROT


Professor Cognitive Neuroscience at the Department of Experimental Psychology


Prof. Tali Sharot is a Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the Department of Experimental Psychology, University College London where she is the director of the Affective Brain Lab. Prof. Sharot is a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow, with past fellowships including the Wellcome Trust Career Development Fellowship, Fellow of the Forum of European Philosophy and British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship. She received her Ph.D in Psychology and Neuroscience from New York University and her B.A in Psychology and Economics from Tel Aviv University. Her research focuses on how emotion, motivation and social factors influence our expectations, decisions and beliefs. Her lab combines methods from neuroscience psychology and economics including neuroimaging, computational modelling and pharmacology manipulation. Prof. Sharot is also the author of The Optimism Bias (2011) and The Influential Mind (2017), both of which received the British Psychological Society Book Award.

 
Image

Senior Lecturer/Associate Professor, Department of Experimental Psychology


I have been studying the neurobiology of language comprehension for the past 18 years. The emphasis over this period has been on understanding how we perceive speech under more real-world, ecological or naturalistic conditions and how the brain uses the contextual information that accompanies speech in those settings. Before coming to the UK, my work was supported by two relevant US grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Health (NIH). The NSF award was for 'Acquisition of Neuroimaging Equipment For Acquiring 4-Dimensional Brain Data From Real-World Stimuli.' The NIH award was to study the 'Neurobiology of Speech Perception in Real-World Contexts.' I am currently a Team Member on the ERC award 'Ecological Language: A multimodal approach to language and the brain' and am part of a team funded by Amazon's Audible.com to use fMRI to study people listening to audiobooks and watch movies.

Image

Member of the Executive Board, Professor of Virtual Environments and Computer Graphics, Department of Computer Science


Professor Anthony Steed is Head of the Virtual Environments and Computer Graphics (VECG) group at University College London. Prof. Steed's research interests extend from virtual reality systems, through to mobile mixed-reality systems, and from system development through to measures of user response to virtual content. He has worked extensively on systems for collaborative mixed reality. He is the author of the book “Networked Graphics: Building Networked Graphics and Networked Games”. He was the recipient of the IEEE VGTC’s 2016 Virtual Reality Technical Achievement Award.

Image

Senior Lecturer and Independent ERC Fellow, Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology


Dr. Nikolaus Steinbeis is Senior Lecturer in Developmental Psychology in the Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology and Independent ERC Fellow. He is Principal Investigator of the Developmental Change and Plasticity Lab (www.dcp-lab.org). His and his team’s research focuses on how real-life experiences impact brain development. He uses training and enrichment paradigms to gain insight into the operation of sensitive periods in the development of higher-order cognitive control processes.

Image

Member of the Executive Board, Chadwick Chair of Civil Engineering, Department of Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering


Professor Nick Tyler CBE FREng is the Chadwick Professor of Civil Engineering at UCL. His research involves the study of how people and environments interact. This includes the study of interactions at a variety of scales, including the real world environment and in his life-scale environmental laboratory PEARL (Person Environment Activity Research Laboratory). He has been working for the last 4 years on the challenge of understanding how people with dementia see in the environment and how it might be possible to change environments (including the social and psychological environments as well as the physical on a project funded by ESRC/NIHR and in Japan. He has also been working with the Institute of Ophthalmology and the Ear Institute on the challenges of seeing and hearing in the real world environment.

Image

Senior Lecturer, Department of Computer Science


Yasin's research focuses on the relationship between changes in physical sound stimuli and the sensations and perceptions they produce, using techniques such as psychophysics, EEG brain recordings and psychological assessment. These methods are used to study how the brain integrates information from multiple sense modalities to influence auditory perception. Of current interest is the question of how attentional shifting affects our ability to hear "patterns" in the sensory world that help us in separating out sounds of interest from background noise.

Placeholder
Image

Ecological Brain PhD student 2018-2022


In my journey to become a medical doctor, I experienced how often the brain, mind, body and the environment are considered as separated entities. The lack of a holistic complex approach shows its consequences widely, far beyond the hospital word. My interest in research arises from a deep curiosity for the most profound origin of knowledge: the basis of thought itself. Moving from molecular biology, I deepened my competences in neurobiology, electrophysiology, and functional neuroanatomy, by studying the long-term synaptic plasticity and the memory parahippocampal network. Research is now facing a strong methodological reappraisal. Many cognitive functions have shown their interconnected nature, and an interdisciplinary theoretical framework has emerged supporting the study of the brain as a dynamic network, placed in a non-reducible real world complexity. By accepting this challenge, I seek to look at the human brain, and humans in their world, as a whole.

Image

Ecological Brain PhD student 2018-2022


How does our brain work? As a neuroscientist, I have been exploring this question through several projects. I studied the cognitive profile of people with PKU, a rare metabolic condition. I then worked with healthy seniors on cognitive compensatory mechanisms. Working with participants who were curious about my research made me realise the benefits of real-world confrontations in scientific research and disclosed my enthusiasm for public engagement with science. After a BSc in Psychology, I joined the Dual Master in Brain and Mind Sciences between UCL in London and UPMC and ENS in Paris. This is when I designed an experiment on onomatopoeias and prosody in Semantic dementia, and I then learned about retinotopic mapping using fMRI to study the neural correlates of consciousness in visual perception. All these experiences left me with a new question: how does our brain work and what can we do with this knowledge?

Image

Ecological Brain PhD student 2018-2022


I began my time at UCL studying BASc Arts and Sciences, and am currently completing an MSc in Health, Wellbeing and Sustainable Buildings at the Bartlett’s Institute of Environmental Design and Engineering. Through my Master's, I have been exploring what healthy environments look like for different people in different contexts by researching peoples' perceptions and reactions to environmental features - considering how elements from indoor air quality to artwork and accessible design impact occupants' physical and mental wellbeing. Over the next four years on the Ecological Brain DTP, I hope to delve deeper into this field to better understand how the brain reacts to different environments, spatial configurations and stimuli in real-world settings, and ultimately help create better, healthier spaces designed around users and their needs.

Image

Ecological Brain PhD student 2018-2022


My research interests are in the areas of human social interaction and spatial cognition. During my studies of psychology at the University of Lübeck and the University of Zurich I was working on projects in social psychology and cognitive neuroscience and gained experience with EEG and fNIRS. I carried on studying for a Master of Research in cognitive neuroscience at UCL. Under the supervision of Professor Sophie Scott, I investigated human laughter and developed and validated a questionnaire on people’s experiences of their own laughter production and perception. After completing my master’s degree, I moved back to Zurich to work in the research area of spatial cognition. I was part of an interdisciplinary team of psychologists and geographers interested in the effects of digital navigation aids on spatial learning. I have gained insights into the principles of map design and the development of virtual reality experiments.

Image

Ecological Brain PhD student 2018-2022


I have a background in computational neuroscience & cognitive robotics, cognitive science, and psychology. My main research interest are the computational principles underlying behaviour we call decision-making. I am specifically interested in the architecture and neural basis of our observation and action models; how we construct (i.e. how do we learn what (latent) variables are relevant and what is their relationship for a given environment), update (i.e. (how) do processes such as metacognition modulate updating of our model assumptions), and refine (i.e. what is needed for us to discard a variable once deemed useful after the structure of an environment has changed) them in novel scenarios. Answering these questions within the ecological constraints that have shaped our structure and function provides a strong explanatory framework in my opinion. Finally, I have a deep interest in questions such research opens within the philosophy of mind and science.

Image

Ecological Brain PhD student 2019-2023


The rise of technology and its increasing integration into our daily lives has the potential to revolutionise the field of Psychology. The incomprehensible volume of data produced every day means that we have more information about how people operate ‘in the wild’ than ever before. The challenge now lies in deriving meaningful conclusions from the noise. I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Cambridge in Natural Sciences with a specialism in Experimental Psychology. After graduating, I took a role in the digital marketing industry, where I came face-to-face with the messy and fascinating reality of ‘big-data’. This led me to pursue an MSc in Data Science at UCL. My current research interests lie at the intersection of Psychology, Technology and Data Science. In particular, how the abundance of data available can be used in combination with experimental results to predict psychological states in the real world.
Image

Ecological Brain PhD student 2019-2023


To date, my academic background has been centred in the field of psychology. Within my ‘evolutionary and comparative psychology’ master’s degree I was, however, exposed to research developed through cross-departmental collaboration. This inspired me to further explore approaches and methodologies from across disciplines; within the Ecological Brain DTP, I am excited to continue incorporating and applying this approach into my research. In addition to this, I am eager to conduct research that is ecologically valid, as I believe that it is important for research to be situated within, and reflective of, the world around us. With the help of the programme’s available technologies, I hope to go beyond ensuring experimental control and investigating processes in isolation, to instead study humans in their complex real-world environments.
Image

Ecological Brain PhD student 2019-2023


My wider interest lies with how representational cognition really is. During my last year studying philosophy at the University of Cambridge, I became fascinated with Wittgenstein’s critique of a Cartesian understanding of the mind and potential implications for modern theory and practice in the Cognitive Sciences. More specifically, I am interested in language-acquisition from an embodied and situated perspective, currently investigating how even abstract concepts could potentially be grounded in rudimentary motor-sensor faculties. Rather than using isolated experimental paradigms, the Ecological Brain DTP allows me to pursue these studies in the real world. Further down the line, I hope to examine the effects that findings could potentially have on computational models of language acquisition and concept-formation of AI systems more generally.
Image

Ecological Brain PhD student 2019-2023


My current research interests revolve around how affective systems modulate social processes, as reflected in the brain and behavior. I completed my BSc in Psychology at UEA, and my MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience at UCL. Supervised by Dr. Lasana Harris, my MSc project used fMRI to investigate dehumanized perception. Since then, I have been working in Professor Jay Gottfried’s laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania, where I have been conducting research on human fear chemosignaling. During my time at Penn, I have become particularly fascinated with the development of fMRI BOLD sequences and emerging analytical tools for neuroimaging. Though my prior experience is mostly in social neuroscience and olfaction, I look forward to witnessing the wide range of topics addressed by the faculty affiliated with the Ecological Brain DTP.
Image

Ecological Brain PhD student 2019-2023


My research interests are mainly situated within the social, cognitive and developmental neurosciences. While studying Neuroscience at the University of Oxford, I contributed to research groups investigating psychological mechanisms such as fluid intelligence, spatial awareness and attention, using virtual reality paradigms and computer games, as a diagnostic tool for dementia and to facilitate improvements in executive function respectively. I also carried out solo research examining the role of different attentional mechanisms in psychiatric & learning disorder symptomatology using behavioral and electrophysiological techniques. Since graduation, I’ve joined the Amodio Social Neuroscience lab at NYU, examining the relationship between social inequality and implicit bias. Specifically, I’ve been working on studies investigating the role economic scarcity plays in the implicit and explicit dehumanization of African Americans. During my time on the Ecological Brain Project, I hope to continue using a range of methodological approaches, to further explore the role an individual’s social context might play in their psychological development, and how this then impacts their psychiatric and educational outcomes.
Image

Ecological Brain PhD student 2019-2023


I have always been interested in how people interact with and make use of technology. Recently, my focus has been on AI-enabled systems and particularly voice assistants. Understanding the interplay between our brain and these intelligent technologies is critical to design effective interactions with them. Studying Information Systems and Human-Computer Interaction provided me with a deeper understanding of how to design technologies for different users and environments. More recently, I was involved in a project at the UCL Interaction Centre on the effectiveness of assistive voice interfaces for collaborative data analysis. The project explored how interacting with the interface via speech affects cognitive processes and collaboration between users. In my opinion, an interdisciplinary and “ecological” research methodology for such intelligent technologies is needed, as they are going to be increasingly “woven into” our virtual and real-world environments.

Member of the Executive Board

Mrs Warda Sharif (Maternity Leave)


Programme Administrator

Miss Pui Sin


Programme Administrator

DR Jake Fairnie


Digital Communications Consultant