My current research is concerned with the fundamental question of how the human brain accomplishes our perception of the world. Despite this perhaps seeming trivial from a subjective point of view, in fact even today’s best computer systems are vastly inferior to what biology has achieved in humans (or other animals). I use the tools of cognitive neuroscience & psychophysics in order to explore this broad question (including fMRI, EEG and in the near future, TMS). In particular we use brain decoding techniques in order to determine what information is coded in particular brain regions.
Current Research Projects
Perception & Production of Facial Expressions of Emotion
I have a longstanding interest in how we process human faces for signals of high biological value, such as facial expressions. In the lab we are pursuing behavioural experiments which seek to characterize the basic environmental constraints that underlie successful signalling of the basic expression categories and neuroimaging studies (using fMRI & EEG) to determine how recognition is accomplished (including testing the embodied account of emotion recognition).
How context shapes early sensory Processing
I also have a strong interest in how the brain uses contextual information to make intelligent guesses about what is present in our world. In previous work we have used occlusion and natural visual scenes, together with fMRI, to demonstrate such processes are evident in early regions of visual cortex (i.e. primary visual cortex) and have further investigated how information from different sensory modalities can shape processing in such regions. Current work in this area uses neuroimaging methods (fMRI & EEG) to investigate how missing information from partial faces (e.g. just showing the eyes or mouth only) may be predicted in primary visual cortex, and how task goals shape such processing (explicit and implicit perception of emotion). Work in this line is currently funded by the British Academy.
I am currently co-investigator on two awards from the BIAL foundation (Portugal) where we are using brain reading (MVPA or Decoding) in collaboration with Stephanie Rossit (UEA) to determine the neural representations involved in real tool use, and with Louis Renoult (UEA) to investigate how memories form.