Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science

Research staff

Dr Lionel Barnett (Post-Doc)

Dr Lionel Barnett

With a background in applied mathematics, Lionel's chief research interests are in the analysis of (mostly biological) complex dynamical systems, using mathematical tools from network theory, information theory and stochastic processes.

Lionel gained his DPhil degree at Sussex in 2004 under the tutelage of Dr. Inman Harvey, during which time he developed new approaches in the evolutionary theory of neutral (not neural!) networks. He has since completed a successful post-doctoral project with Dr. Seth Bullock of Southampton University, analysing the influence of spatial embedding on the structure and dynamics of complex networks.

In 2010 he joined Dr. Anil Seth's Neurodynamics and Consciousness Lab as a post-doc, where he researches the causal dynamics of information flow in complex neural systems, particularly as they relate to phenomena of consciousness. Using techniques from information theory and time series analysis, the chief aims of his research are (i) to elucidate the relationship between network structure and functional behaviour, (ii) derive useful macroscopic descriptions for large-scale neural systems, and (iii) investigate how the previous aims can be actualised from empirical neural data, such as EEG/MEG, fMRI, etc.

Click here for more information about Lionel.

Dr Adam Barrett (EPSRC Research Fellow)

adamAdam's research makes use of mathematical methods to attempt to understand what is distinct about the particular neural structures, dynamics and functions that give rise to conscious experience.

More specifically, inspired by Integrated Information Theory, a major focus of his work is on the development of potential measures of conscious level that quantify the extent to which neural dynamics simultaneously generate and integrate information. In other words, Adam works on modelling and developing our mathematical understanding of neural complexity, as well as deriving statistical techniques for applying abstract measures based on this concept to neuroimaging data. A key component of this involves developing methodology for quantifying the strength of directed interactions (functional connectivity) between neural dynamical variables, and this leads to applications broadly across neuroscience. Datasets Adam has analysed include EEG recordings from subjects undergoing general anaesthesia, and intracranial depth electrode recordings from awake and asleep epileptic patients.

Adam is also interested in the role of metacognition (knowledge of knowing) in conscious awareness, and researches ways of modelling and measuring metacognition at both the behavioural and neural level.

Prior to joining the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science in 2009, he was a postdoc in Mark van Rossum's group at the University of Edinburgh, working mainly on synaptic plasticity and the neural basis of learning and memory.

In 2006 Adam completed his PhD in theoretical physics at the University of Oxford, and the topic of his thesis was string/M-theory. Before this he studied mathematics undergraduate and Masters (Parts I, II and III of the Tripos) at St John's College, Cambridge.

Dr Pete Lush (Post-Doc)

Pete Lush Pete completed a BSc in Neuroscience and an MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience at Sussex University. His PhD research was supervised by Prof. Zoltan Dienes and employed cognitive measures to investigate differences in the metacognition of motor-intentions related to trait hypnotisability, hypnotic responding and long-term mindfulness meditation practice. He is interested in the experience of involuntariness over actions which is central to hypnotic responding and is currently working on a CIFAR and BELSPO funded project to develop a cue combination model of intentional binding (an effect commonly employed as an implicit measure of the sense of agency).

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.

Charlotte is also affiliated with the Department of Neuroscience at Brighton and Sussex Medical School. Her BSMS webpage is:

Dr David Schwartzman (Post-Doc/Lab Manager)

Dr David SchwartzmanDavid completed his MSc and PhD at Oxford Brookes University in Cognitive Neuropsychology under the supervision of Professor Gert Westermann. His PhD investigated the functional role of gamma oscillations in visual perception using EEG. David's research interests at the Sackler Centre include:  investigating the neural origins of grapheme-colour synaesthesia, characterising altered-states of consciousness induced by stroboscopic stimulation and investigating the functional relevance the ‘perceptual echo’. David also directs Oxford Faraday Cages a company that specializes in designing and building electrical shielding solutions, laboratory spaces, and sound insulation for electronic, medical, and scientific applications.

Dr Maxine Sherman (Post-Doc)

MaxineMaxine did her undergraduate degree in Mathematics at the University of Bristol and subsequently moved into psychology, obtaining an MSc in Experimental Psychology with distinction at the University of Sussex. Her master’s dissertation, under Dr. Ryan Scott, looked at whether an illusory temporal reversal found under motion-induced blindness could be explained by sensory adaption and attentional processes.

Under the supervision of Dr. Ryota Kanai and Prof. Anil Seth, she investigated how conscious experience may be influenced by priors in the “Bayesian brain” by utilising both behavioural and functional neuroimaging data. Of particular interest is how, from a Predictive Coding perspective, attention may modulate the effects of expectation on visual and multi-modal perception.

Dr Keisuke Suzuki (Post-Doc)

Keisuke SuzukiKeisuke Suzuki obtained his Ph.D degree on the subject of artificial life from the University of Tokyo in 2007. He stayed as a research fellow in RIKEN Brain Science Institute, where he carried out research into human cognitive functions in virtual reality environments (2008-2011). He developed a novel virtual reality system called SR (Substitutional Reality) with his colleagues. In this system, people believe that they are experiencing real-world scenes, even though they are actually experiencing pre-recorded scenes. He joined the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science in 2011 as part of the CEEDS project.

Keisuke's research focus at the SCCS is about conscious presence; i.e. the subjective feeling of being "here and now". The sense of presence is one of the important aspects of our subjective conscious experience, but its underlying neural mechanisms remain poorly understood. The research involves constructing a theoretical model to explain conscious presence, integrating neurological and psychiatric evidence with a focus on depersonalisation disorder (DPD). Theoretical work is complemented experimentally using state-of-the-art virtual reality techniques. Keisuke is also interested in the relationship between hallucination and delusion, informing an integrated theory of perception and belief.