Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science

Research staff

Dr Lionel Barnett (post-doc)

Dr Lionel Barnett

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

I gained my DPhil degree at Sussex in 2004 under the tutelage of Dr. Inman Harvey, during which time I developed

new approaches in the evolutionary theory of neutral (not neural!) networks. I have 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 I joined Dr. Anil Seth's Neurodynamics and Consciousness Lab as a post-doc, where I research 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 my 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 Dr. Lionel Barnett.

Dr Adam Barrett (post-doc)

adamMy 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 my 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, I work 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 I have analysed include EEG recordings from subjects undergoing general anaesthesia, and intracranial depth electrode recordings from awake and asleep epileptic patients.

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

Prior to joining the Seth lab in 2009, I 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 I completed my PhD in theoretical physics at the University of Oxford, and the topic of my thesis was string/M-theory. Before this I studied mathematics undergraduate and Masters (Parts I, II and III of the Tripos) at St John's College, Cambridge.

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, due out spring 2011), before returning to research as a research fellow at the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science. My research focus in SCCS: My research centres 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 potentially elucidate 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 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 Sarah Garfinkel (post-doc)

SarahDr Garfinkel’s research uses fMRI, pharmacological manipulation and autonomic indices to investigate the mechanisms underlying altered memory processes – focusing on memory distortion, memory facilitation and selective memory impairments.

During her PhD at Sussex University, under the supervision of Prof. Dora Duka and Prof. Zoltan Dienes, she investigated the effect of alcohol on false and veridical memories, as well as the propensity for alcohol to differentially impact implicit and explicit memory processes. During her Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Michigan, Dr. Garfinkel investigated how stress impacts memory. Under the mentorship of Prof. Israel Liberzon, she investigated the neurocircuitry underlying the maintenance of fear memories in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In collaboration with Professors Liberzon and Abelson, and in collaboration with Columbia University, she investigated how the stress hormone cortisol can facilitate memory encoding. In collaboration with Cornell University, she is currently involved in projects assessing the deleterious effect of chronic poverty on hippocampal dependent memory.

Returning to Brighton as a Fellow in Clinical Medicine at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Dr. Garfinkel now works with Prof. Hugo Critchley to investigate how the autonomic nervous system affects implicit and explicit attention and memory processes.

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.

Dr Charlotte Rae (post-doc)

Dr Charlotte RaeCharlotte gained her PhD in cognitive neuroscience at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, in 2013. Her PhD investigated the structural and functional brain networks that support control of voluntary action, supervised by James Rowe. She continued in James Rowe’s lab for a few months as a post-doctoral Research Associate, before joining the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science in 2014, as a Sackler Clinical Research Fellow.

Charlotte’s research at Sussex investigates the changes in brain interactions that occur in disorders of consciousness, and how these changes may underpin symptoms. This includes neuroimaging studies of depersonalisation in psychosis, altered motor control in Tourette Syndrome, and attentional processes in anxiety. She uses neuroimaging methods including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), together with brain network analysis techniques, to find out how brain connectivity influences behaviour. 

Charlotte is also affiliated with the Clinical Imaging Sciences Centre at Brighton and Sussex Medical School. Her BSMS webpage is: http://www.bsms.ac.uk/research/our-researchers/charlotte-rae.

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 David Schwartzman (post-doc/Lab Manager)


David SchwartzmanDavid is a Cognitive Neuropsychologist who completed his MSc and PhD at Oxford Brookes University both in the area of Cognitive  Neuropsychology. During  this time his research investigated the functional role of gamma oscillations in visual perception us EEG. He also worked at the Experimental Psychology department at Oxford University with Nick Yeung at the ACC lab investigating how we use external signals of success or failure to help us perform more acurrately (2007-2009).

David's research interests include understanding the neural substrates of face perception, repetition priming and visual hallucinations in age related macular degeneration patients. He has also investigated how minute movements of the eyes, called Micro Saccades can affect the brain’s electrical responses and the changes in fluid dynamics of the brain that occur with age.

My research at the SCCS investigates the origins of synaesthesia, by trying to to train normal participants to develop Synaesthetic expereinces. I am also investigating metacognition by using TMS to disrupt activity in the dorsolateral pre-frontal cortex during the processing of visual stimuli.

David also directs Oxford Faraday Cages a company that specializes in designing and building cost effective electrical shielding solutions, laboratory spaces, and sound insulation for electronic, medical, and research applications.

Dr Keisuke Suzuki (post-doc)

KeisukeSuzuki

Keisuke Suzuki obtained his Ph.D degree on 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) system with his colleagues. In this system, people believe that they 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 CEEDS project.

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