Sensation and Perception to Awareness: Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarship Programme


Take a look below for details of the current projects funded by the Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarship Programme at Sussex.

Current projects

Carla Dance (School of Psychology) Carla Dance

Project title: A ‘blind mind’s eye’: Visual Knowledge in aphantasia

Supervisors: Professor Julia Simner

Project description: For most people visual imagery contributes pivotally to every day experience. Congenital aphantasia is the inability to visually imagine from birth. The present research project will investigate the implications of aphantasia for domains such as cognitive processing style, perception, sensory imagery, sensory sensitivity, and experience of anxiety. This will further the characterisation of aphantasia, vital in progressing our understanding of this newly acknowledged condition.

Dennis Larsson (Brighton and Sussex Medical School, BSMS) Dennis Larsson

Project title: Body-brain interaction underlying metacognitive awareness

Supervisors: Dr Sarah Garfinkel, Professor Zoltan Dienes

Project description: How interoceptive signals from the internal body and its visceral organs (e.g. the heart and the stomach) relate to changes in brain activity; and how such signals relate to metacognitive awareness of interoceptive activity. 

Filippo Torresan (School of Engineering and Informatics) Filippo Torresan

Project title: Representations and Conscious Content in the Predicting Brain

Supervisors: Dr Ron Chrisley, Professor Anil Seth

Project description: A long-standing tradition in cognitive science conceives of thought and related mental processes as involving mental representations. In my research, I investigate what notions of mental representation are consistent with predictive processing, a neuroscientific framework describing the activity of the brain as one of relentless prediction directed both inwards and outwards. In particular, I am interested in exploring the constraints that predictive processing imposes on how mental representations turn into conscious experience.

Joshua Hargreaves (School of Media, Film and Music) Josh Hargreaves

Project title: A bio-psycho-social exploration into the role of musical leadership to facilitate and guide socio-temporal synchrony 

Supervisors: Dr Thor Magnusson, Professor Anil Seth

Project description: I will be exploring the role of ‘leadership’ and ‘influence’ in musical interactions, and how this role manifests in order initiate and guide the neural, bodily and social synchronisations that make human musicality possible, and which may have great implications in many other aspects of human sociality. The fundamental principle in this bio-psycho-social perspective of leadership is not one of power or superiority, but about influence and empowering others. Music provides an excellent example of this, as the outcome of all musical interactions is to reach some kind of auditory, physical, emotional and social synchrony.

Magdalena del Río (School of Psychology)  Magdalena

Project title: Individual Differences in Sensory Sensitivity and its Links to Autism and Synaesthesia

Supervisors: Professor Jamie Ward, Dr Sophie Forster, Dr Jenny Bosten

Project decription: Why do some people experience certain simple sensory stimuli as intense or overwhelming? How is this hypersensitivity linked to clinical conditions, and what is its neural basis?

Clémence Compain (School of Engineering & Informatics)  Photo of Clemence Compain

Project title: Perceptual biases and metacognition during visual decision-making

Supervisors: Professor Anil Seth, Dr Maxine Sherman

Project description: Humans have the ability to be aware of their own performance, an ability called metacognition. It is generally evaluated by a retrospective confidence judgment about the belief that the choice made is correct. Confidence judgments emerge from both sensory evidence and internal noise, reflecting the quantity and the quality of perceptual information. However, perception can be biased by prior beliefs and knowledge about the world. My research aims to investigate the awareness of humans’ objective and metacognitive biases, and the influence of the biases’ awareness on subsequent choices and on confidence about these choices.

Fiona Miller (School of Music, Film and Media)  Photo of Fiona Miller

Project title: Towards a therapeutic compositional model: can attributes of sound and music be isolated and composed to induce optimum HRV in PTSD sufferers?

Supervisors: Dr Alice Eldridge, Professor Hugo Critchley

Project description: The purpose of this project is to determine whether attributes of sound and music can be manipulated to induce parasympathetic autonomic nervous system activity, with the aim of constructing a framework for creating musical compositions that induce optimum heart rate variability among sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Isabel Maranhão (School of Life Sciences)  Photo of Isabel Maranhao

Project title: Sequence processing in dyslexic and non dyslexic groups

Supervisors: Professor Miguel Maravall, Dr Warrick Roseboom

Project description: This project will explore how we recognise sequences; stimuli that unfolds over time in a in a particular order. What are the global and local cues we use for sequence discrimination? To achieve this, auditory and tactile sequence processing in dyslexic participants, which potentially show an impairment in sequence processing, and non dyslexic participants will be compared using behavioural and electrophysiological experiments. This project also aims to draw parallels in sequence processing between mice and humans.

Jacopo Modoni (School of Psychology) Photo of Jacopo Mondoni

Project title: Putting the spotlight on taste: behavioural and optical interrogation of the neural mechanism of hedonic taste perception

Supervisors: Dr Eisuke Koya, Dr Hans Crombag

Project description: Cues that predict the availability of food are able to trigger the motivational drive to consume palatable, and often times unhealthy foods. In some individuals, exposure to these cues trigger reactions such as food cravings and excessive food intake which contributes to unhealthy eating.

Within the wider appetitive and motivational neuronal network, the nucleus accumbens (NAc) serves as a key node in establishing learned associations between the hedonic (pleasurable) and incentive properties of food and the cues that predict food availability.

In this project, using fibre photometry I will examine how NAc neurons are activated during consumption of palatable foods and exposure to associated cues following modulation of the hedonic value of food. By doing so we will be able to reveal the relevant neuronal activity patterns that have relevance for both normal and unhealthy eating.

Samuel Bilbow (School of Music, Film and Media)  Photo of Samuel Bilbow

Project title: Impact on human perception and expression, using augmented-reality technology as a medium for installation art

Supervisors: Dr Chris Kiefer, Dr Cecile Chevalier

Project description: There has been a surge in the development of augmented reality (AR) due to its growing implementation in consumer technologies. However, development has mainly focused on augmenting the visual sense, which has led to a relatively under-explored area - multi-sensory AR. This research project will investigate the impact on perception and expression, both individual and shared, when using AR technology as medium for creating interactive multi-sensory art. The aim of my research is to support computational artists by developing a deeper understanding of the materiality of this medium.

Sina Dominiak (School of Life Sciences)  Photo of Sina Dominiak

Project title: Plasticity of visual processing in primary visual cortex

Supervisors: Professor Leon Lagnado, Professor Miguel Maravall

Project description: Perceptual responses to sensory signals change depending on stimuli, context and behavioural state. I will investigate the circuit mechanisms that modulate the processing of sensory signals in the primary visual cortex. The focus will be set on the role of inhibitory interneurons controlling changes in the gain of visual responses that are associated with short-term changes in behavioural state as well as long-term changes during learning.

Tessa Herzog (School of Life Sciences)  Photo of Tessa Herzog

Project title: Information encoding at the first visual synapse in the visual pathway

Supervisors: Dr Tom Baden, Professor Leon Lagnado

Project description: The cone photoreceptors in the outer layer of the retina have the task of encoding visual information and transmitting it across the first synapse of the visual pathway. Ultimately, this enables us to perceive features including contrast, luminosity and colour.

How do ribbon synapses of cone photoreceptors recode the graded voltage signals generated in the outer segment for transmission to post-synaptic neurons? Using zebrafish, we are investigating how synaptic vesicles are used to encode luminance and contrast by imaging glutamate release in vivo. I will focus on comparing information encoding in red, green, blue and UV cones, and across different positions in the eye.