Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science

Alumni

Hazel Anderson (PhD student)

HazelHazel has an M.A. in Psychology from the University of Glasgow where she researched face detection capabilities in prosopagnosia under Dr. Roberto Caldara. She also has an MSc in Foundations of Clinical Neuropsychology with Distinction from Bangor University where she investigated the role of the pSTS in biological motion detection using TMS with Prof. Paul Downing and Dr. Martijn van Koningsbruggen.

Hazel investigated ‘hypnosis and synaesthesia’ under the supervision of Prof. Jamie Ward, Prof. Zoltan Dienes and Prof. Anil Seth.  Her research included the requirements of consciousness in synaesthesia, a condition where a specific inducer (i.e. a sound) generates a sensory concurrent (i.e. a colour) and the creation of synaesthetic experiences using hypnosis. She also researched the role of consciousness more generally for tasks such as number and colour processing.

Dr. Daniel Bor (Visiting Research Fellow)

DanDaniel completed his first degree in psychology and philosophy at the University of Oxford in 1997. He then moved to the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit (CBU) at Cambridge University for his PhD (completed 2002), where he carried out research into the prefrontal cortex and strategic processing.  He was then a research fellow, partly at Cambridge University, and partly at the MRC CBU for a number of years before taking two years out in 2008 to write a popular science book on the science of consciousness (published by Basic Books), before returning to research as a research fellow at the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science.

Dan's research focus in SCCS centred on using brain-imaging and behavioural techniques involving structured strimuli in normal participants and various clinical populations to help elucidate the purpose and nature of consciousness and, by so doing elucidated the precise nature and cause of various clinical conditions, potentially leading to more effective future treatments.

Click here for more information about Dr Daniel Bor.

Dr. Acer Chang (PhD student)

AcerAcer first received his degree of the Bachelors of Science in engineering science from National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan. Then, he earned his master’s degree in neuroscience from National Yang-Ming University in Taiwan. During the master program, he was under the supervision of Dr. Denise Wu and mainly focused on the human magnitude representation and time perception.

Under the supervision of Prof. Anil Seth and Dr. Ryota Kanai, Acer researched consciousness science.  He was interested in how human brains can build internal models for predicting and inferring external causes.  He tackled the internal mechanism in human brains by combining results from computational predictive coding models and human neuroimaging experiments.  In the future he hopes to elucidate how the predictive coding mechanism could influence our conscious perception and awareness.

Dr. Tom Froese

Tom completed his DPhil in the Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics in 2009 and joined the Sackler Centre as a visiting research fellow in February, 2010. During his DPhil his work focused on the relationship between life and mind, as well as on the design and analysis of dynamic systems models of social interaction. He was involved with the Sackler Centre's investigations into unusual perceptual phenomena such as synesthesia and sensory substitution (especially in the context of Anil Seth's Neurodynamics and Consciousness Lab). In addition, he was involved in the clinical side of the Centre, where his particular interest was in developing a better understanding of depersonalization syndrome.

Tom is currently JSPS Postdoctoral Fellow at the Ikegami Laboratory of Prof. Ikegami, Department of General Systems Studies, University of Tokyo, Japan.

Click here for more information about Dr Tom Froese.

Dr. David Gamez (Visiting Research Fellow)

David GamezDavid Gamez holds PhDs in both philosophy and computer science from the University of Essex. From 2009 to 2012 he was at Imperial College London, where he worked on brain-inspired neural networks and robotics and investigated new algorithms for making predictions about consciousness. He is currently a JTF Turing Research Fellow and Visiting Research Fellow at the Sackler Centre, where he is using a combination of philosophy and neural modelling to explore how a science of consciousness can be developed based on mathematical theories.

More information about David Gamez's research can be found at his personal website: www.davidgamez.eu.

Dr. Cassandra Gould van Praag

Dr Cassandra Gould van Praag was a researcher in the Department of Neuroscience at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, working with Professor Hugo Critchley. Cassandra is interested in the impact of physiology on emotional and cognitive processing - how our body effects what we think and feel.

Cassandra completed her PhD in the Sackler Centre for Consiousness Science in the Department of Informatics. Here she explored the trait of synaesthesia, where sensory experiences in one modality trigger a concurrent experience of another form, using extensive exploration of the first person experience and Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Prior to PhD studies, Cassandra undertook an Open University Diploma in Health Psychology, followed by a Masters in Cognitive Neuropsychology at University College London. Cassandra received a First Class honours in Biological Sciences from the University of Brighton, where she specialised in human biochemistry, genetics, and immunology.

Dr. Marcus Gray

Following undergraduate and postgraduate training in psychology and research into the interaction of depression and dementia on the conscious experience of pain in hospitalised elderly patients, Dr Gray’s PhD research investigated electrocortical activity during anticipatory anxiety, and the influence of acute pharmacological interventions on subjective, physiological and cortical anxiety responses.

Dr Gray then completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, Queen Square, London. During this time he worked with Professor Hugo Critchley, investigating emotional and interoceptive processing, and subtleties in the relationships between the heart and the brain. Since moving to the University of Sussex, Dr Gray has developed his research focus on the interaction between brain and the body, with particular emphasis on how the functioning of the heart and mind are related. This research investigates these relationships in both healthy adults and patients with congestive heart failure and typically employs measures of both neural function (eg., EEG, fMRI) and of the heart and autonomic nervous system (GSR, ECG, EMG, Blood Pressure). This research spans low level homeostatic mechanisms governing beat to beat blood pressure regulation, attention and pain, and high level integration of cardiac afferent information to shape emotion, perceptual and cognitive functioning.

Dr Gray's current position is Senior Research Fellow at the Experimental Neuropsychology Research Unit, School of Psychology and Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine Nursing & Health Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.

Thomas Grice-Jackson (PhD student)

ThomasThomas completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Essex in Psychology, completing a dissertation and subsequent research assistant post under the supervision of Dr Helge Gillmeister assessing the link between somatosensory mirror-neurons and empathy. Under the supervision of Prof. Jamie Ward & Prof Hugo Critchley, Thomas investigated the neural processes that arise during the observation of others in pain based on ‘shared representation’ theories of empathy. His research used a variety of neuroimaging techniques (including: EEG, fMRI & tDCS stimulation) to assess individuals' differences in empathic pain processing based on how individuals subjectively experience observed pain, i.e. some individuals report bodily sensations of pain during observations. It is hoped that more can be discovered about the neural systems which support and modulate empathic pain and broader empathy processes.

Prof. Owen Holland

Prof Owen Holland

Owen Holland, Emeritus Professor of Cognitive Robotics, has a varied interdisciplinary background, and has held faculty positions in psychology (University of Edinburgh), electrical engineering (the University of the West of England, Bristol), and computer science (University of Essex). He has held visiting appointments at the University of Bielefeld Zentrum fur interdisziplinare Forschung, the California Institute of Technology, and the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne. He has also held positions in private research laboratories (Cyberlife Technologies, Cambridge; Starlab nv, Brussels), and has worked in or consulted for several industrial companies. He was a member of the Swarm Systems team that won the ‘Most Innovative Idea’ award at the Ministry of Defence Grand Challenge in 2008.   

For more almost thirty years he has worked in the areas of biologically inspired robotics, swarm intelligence, and the history of cybernetics.and for the last fifteen years he has mainly been interested in the prospects for building a conscious machine. In 2001 he was an organiser and session chair for one of the first symposia on machine consciousness, and in 2003 he edited a special issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies on the topic. In 2004 he obtained the first major funding for a machine consciousness project which investigated whether a human-like robot with a self-model and a world-model might exhibit features characteristic of consciousness. The novel technology developed in the project was further extended at Sussex in a European project ECCEROBOT, led by Owen, which ran from 2009 – 2012. He is currently exploring opportunities for the commercial development of machine consciousness through his company Conscious Machines Ltd.

 More information about Prof Owen Holland

Heather Iriye (PhD student)

Heather IriyeHeather Iriye received her BA with Distinction in Psychology from the University of Alberta and went on to complete an MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Sussex. Her research aims to understand how visual perspective, that is whether an event is remembered from a first- or third-person perspective, and a sense of embodiment impact the formation and retrieval of memories for events. She is especially interested in using virtual reality techniques to manipulate perspective in order to address this issue in a novel way.

Michaela Klimova (Research Intern)

Michaela KlimovaMichaela completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology and Master’s degree in Cognitive Neuropsychology at the University of Edinburgh. The focus of her research during her studies was visual perception and visual attention. After obtaining her Master’s degree, she joined the Sackler Centre where she worked on EEG and psychophysical experiments aimed at understanding the brain’s predictive processes in time perception.

Dr. Marte Otten (Post-Doc)

MarteMarte received her BA & MA in Cognitive and Biological Psychology from the Vrije Universiteit (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) and received my PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience from the University of Amsterdam.


Following her PhD, she was awarded a NWO Rubicon Scholarship to complete a 2 year post-doc at Harvard Univerity, in Mahzarin Banaji’s Social Cognition Laboratory. Here her research focused on the influence that (unconscious) stereotypical knowledge has on low-level attentional processes, memory & language perception.


Following this she worked at the University of Amsterdam, this time at the Department of Social Psychology, with Kai Jonas.

Dr. Jim Parkinson (Post-Doc)

Jim ParkinsonJim gained his PhD in Experimental Psychology in 2007 at the University of Sussex, investigating links between action and perception: Does how you perform an action affect how you perceive the action? He then went on to work with Dr Anne Sprtinger and professor Wolfgang Prinz at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany. Whilst there he investigated how individuals can predict and internally simulate the visual perception of human motion.

Following this, he worked with Professor Patrick Haggard at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, UCL, where he conducted research into the volitional self-control of actions. In 2013 he returned to the University of Sussex, joining the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science as a postdoctoral research fellow.

One of Jim’s main research interests is Free Will: What is it? Does it truly exist? Why do we at least have the feeling we are “free”? This also encompasses self-control and motor inhibition, the sense of agency and intention, and subliminal priming of volitional behaviour. This research utilises the state-of-the-art neuroscientific equipment that the Sackler Centre offers, such as electroencephalogram (EEG) recording and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) techniques.

Dr. Yair Pinto (post-doc)

Yair PintoDr Pinto first completed a master’s in physics, then went on to do a Phd. in cognitive psychology with Jan Theeuwes at theVrije University in Amsterdam. After that he worked four years as a post-doc, two years in Harvard, at Jeremy Wolfe’s visual attention lab, and two years in Amsterdam, at the University of Amsterdam in Victor Lamme’s lab. He has mainly worked on the connection between attention and perception. How does attending to a location/feature affect perceptual processing? And vice versa, which types of perception require attention, and which can do without? Among the things he has found is that temporal grouping and detection of a static object in a field of dynamic objects, can be done without attention. Also, in multiple object tracking, attention is needed in two ways. First to keep track of the locations of the different moving items, second to know which identity goes with which object.

His main research interest is conscious perception. Visual consciousness is just a fancy word for visual experiences. The difference between what I experience (lots of visual experiences) and a person with blindness or blindsight (no visual experiences).

What is so mysterious about consciousness? It seems very mundane, the moment we wake up we are bombarded by experiences. The mystery is to bridge the gap between mechanistic interactions and experiences. Imagine a large array of domino rods. Just connect the domino rods to the right input and output devices and arrange them in the right way and you can basically build any machine you want. However: how can you get an array of domino rods to experience anything?

He is currently researching various aspects of consciousness. How does consciousness relate to predictive coding? Is conscious unity dependent on communication between subsystems? How rich is consciousness? Which neural processes are, and aren’t associated with consciousness?

For this research he uses a variety of techniques: behavioral methods, binocular rivalry, eye tracking, fMRI and patient work.

Hielke Prins (Dphil student)

Hielke obtained his undergraduate degree in Artificial Intelligence at the University of Groningen and a masters degree in Brain and CogHielke Prinsnitive Sciences at the  University of Amsterdam. In various projects within his curriculum he explored the relation between electrophysiological signals from the brain, attention and visual perception. Before starting a PhD under supervision of Prof. Hugo Critchley and Prof. Anil Seth, he worked on the unconscious influences on navigation in virtual reality environments using visual cues that escape our awareness. For his thesis he aims to exploit virtual reality to reveal the interaction between the body and the brain when processing arousing stimuli. During his undergraduate courses in philosophy of mind, Hielke became convinced that consciousness takes more than a brain in a vat. Influenced by predictive coding accounts of the self, he sees it as a continuous effort to make sense of the available input by forging it into a coherent picture of ourselves and our relation with the world around us. He is fascinated by the opportunities that virtual reality will bring to investigate that relation.

Dr Charlotte Rae (Post-Doc)

Charlotte RaeDr Rae completed her PhD in cognitive neuroscience at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge in 2013. Her PhD research focused on the structural and functional brain networks that support control of voluntary action. This included structural and effective connectivity techniques using both diffusion imaging and fMRI. She moved to the University of Sussex in 2014 as a postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science and the Department of Neuroscience in Brighton and Sussex Medical School.

Dr Rae's broad interest is in how the human prefrontal cortex supports aspects of complex human behaviour, such as how we stop ourselves from performing inappropriate actions, and how this can be altered with everyday challenges and in neurological and psychiatric conditions. Her work within the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science focuses on questions of how prefrontal networks that support key aspects of consciousness become dysfunctional in brain disorders. In particular, this includes studies on action control in Tourette Syndrome, depersonalisation in first-episode psychosis, and the impact of physiological state on impulsivity. To tackle these questions Dr Rae combines structural and functional MRI brain scanning with measures of autonomic function, physioharlotte is also affiliated with the Clinical Imaging Sciences Centre at Brighton and Sussex Medical School.logical state, and psychology tasks measuring participants' decisions and reactions.

Dr Rae is now a Lecturer in the School of Psychology, University of Sussex.

Dr. Darren Rhodes (Post-Doc)

Darren RhodesDarren completed his PhD in Computational Neuroscience at the University of Birmingham in 2015 under the guidance of Dr. Max Di Luca. In his PhD, he developed Bayesian models of time perception. He spent some time at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology during his PhD, where he worked with Prof. Dawn Behne developing his models into the speech domain.  

Darren joined the SCCS in 2015 in a post-doctoral position as part of the TIMESTORM project (http://timestorm.eu/) with Prof. Anil Seth. Here, Darren investigated to how we can make robots predict the future - by learning how the human brain can perceive time. As such, Darren’s research at Sussex was aimed at developing predictive coding models of time perception and interoception through the use of psychophysical behavioural methods. He is interested in understanding how the brain estimates event-timing, as a step towards a unified-general theory of time perception. Darren is also interested in how temporal contingencies are formed and how they influence behaviour. Darren uses a variety of techniques to address these aims including EEG, TMS, Computational Modelling and Psychophysics. 

Read more at http://www.darrenrhodes.org/

Dr. Nicolas Rothen (post-doc)

Nicolas is psychologist who completed his studies and PhD in experimental Psychology and Neuropsychology at University of Bern, Switzerland. During this time he conducted research on synaesthesia, a rare unusual condition in which ordinary stimuli trigger extraordinary experiences. Besides this he has a strong interest in memory research.

My research focus in SCCS: I will be mainly concerned with studies on synaesthesia and its influence on memory. Previous studies have shown that under certain conditions synaesthetic experiences lead to an advantage in memory performance. However, to date the specific performance advantage is not well characterised in terms of cognitive and neuroscience models of memory and it is not clear why synaesthetes show any memory advantage at all. It is the aim of my research project to characterise the memory performance advantage of synaesthetes in terms of cognitive and neuroscience models of memory. Moreover, the current research project aims to shed some more light on the question why synaesthetes show any memory advantage at all.

Dr. Michael Schartner (PhD student)

Michael After studying mathematics and physics, Michael became interested in computational neuroscience. Growing attention is given worldwide to the study of brain and mind, often focussing on memory and information processing. Yet how mind arises from brain remains unclear. Based on Giulio Tononi's integrated information theory, the complexity of the communication between brain parts correlates with conscious level, i.e. consciousness emerges in information processing networks if the nodes of such a network influence each other's activity in a complex way. There are several complexity measures that were proposed to correlate with conscious level, and Michael is trying to test if these claims hold.  Michael is supervised by Dr Adam Barrett and Prof. Anil Seth.

Georg Schauer

Georg Schauer

Georg's first degree is a first class MA in Philosophy obtained at the University of Edinburgh, during which he investigated the causal interactions between mental and brain states. Following this work, for which he was awarded the James Grant Memorial and Skirving Prizes, Georg switched from Philosophy into empirically studying the brain by completing the MSc in Human Cognitive Neuropsychology with Distinction, also at the University of Edinburgh. For his thesis, he used TMS and sMRI to elucidate the role of parietal areas in visual consciousness under the supervision of Dr David Carmel.

His work at the Sackler Centre, which was supported by a Chancellor's scholarship from the University of Sussex, has built on his previous work by using concurrent and neuronavigated TMS-EEG on multiple parietal sites during bistable perception under the joint supervision of Dr Ryota Kanai and Prof Anil Seth. This was the first study to make full use of Sackler's state of the art TMS-EEG lab. During his year here, he also worked on a joint project between the Sackler Centre and Utrecht University on the role of superior parietal cortex in attention.

Georg will continue his studies as a PhD student at the Centre for Integrative Neuroscience in Tübingen.

Marta Suarez-Pinilla (PhD student)

Marta SuarezMarta studied Medicine (University of Oviedo, Spain) and specialized in Neurology. As a result of her interest in cognitive Neuroscience, and specifically in the relationship between information processing and consciousness, she decided to pursue a research career in this field. She aims to explore the mechanisms by which the brain deals with the complexity of a changing environment and achieves a balance between efficiently summarizing the evidence and taking account of its diversity, in order to successfully adapt to a wide range of events.

Marta conducted a study on probabilistic reversal learning in different levels of alertness, under the supervision of Dr. Tristan Bekinschtein at the University of Cambridge. Under the direction of Prof. Anil Seth, here at the Sackler Centre, she studied the role of peripheral vision in variance detection and tuning of the gain assigned to the sensory input, according to the predictive coding framework.

Dr Tom Wright

Tom Wright

Tom obtained a 1st class degree in cognitive neuroscience at Sussex in 2009, which culminated with investigations into learning and memory under Prof. Michael O'Shea. He now investigates assistive technology for the visually impaired and is supervised by Prof. Jamie Ward and Dr. Graham McAllister.

Of particular relevance to the SCCS is his work with sensory substitution devices. These tools make visual information available through another sense. As such, they have been (contentiously) described as eliciting artificial synaesthesia. Additionally, they force us to question our understanding of vision and spatial awareness.

Click here for more information about Tom Wright.