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Work in the laboratory focuses on the neural mechanisms underlying human consciousness in health and disease. As a considerable amount is already known about the anatomy and physiology of the visual system, much of the research in the laboratory focuses on visual awareness. However, we are interested in all the major modalities and work in the laboratory also studies the auditory and somatosensory systems. We mainly use functional MRI at high field, in combination with behavioral studies, transcranial magnetic stimulation and EEG/MEG.
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Our previous work has suggested that subjective awareness of objects in the visual environment is associated not just with enhanced activation in visual areas of the occipital lobe, but also areas of parietal and prefrontal cortex often associated with attention. A major focus of our work is therefore in studying interactions between visual cortex and these areas and the potential causal role of frontal and parietal cortex.
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We spend a lot of our time using multivariate algorithms to predict behaviour and subjective states such as the contents of consciousness from patterns of brain activity measured using fMRI. More recently we have become interested in using MEG to accomplish similar goals.
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More recently we have become intensely interested in individual differences in perception and awareness, seeking ways to characterise how consciousness might differ from person-to-person. We have started relating these phenotypic differences to brain structure (and later to brain function) and so have become particularly interested in the relationship of brain structure to perception and a range of social behaviors.
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We are also interested in real-time fMRI and have an active programme seeking to develop ways to use biofeedback to study the influence of top-down signals on awareness. We also have a small programme running at Imperial College in collaboration with David Edwards, exploiting their ability to image neonates at very early gestational ages; we hope to be able to study the ontogeny of the human visual system and its relationship to visual awareness.