Brain Sciences


Understanding and influencing behaviour

Our research into the behavioural and cognitive sciences looks at understanding complex behaviours of individuals and groups.
Behaviour and cognitive sciences

Our research into the behavioural and cognitive sciences - the psychological and biological bases of behaviour - has substantially expanded its scope. We have moved from understanding the basis of simple and constrained behaviours in laboratory environments, to understanding complex behaviours of individuals and groups in naturalistic scenarios, including through partnerships with key stakeholders outside academia. To enable this expanded scope we have strengthened our expertise in several domains, looking at: 

  • how people gain a metacognitive understanding of themselves; 
  • how social cognition is organised; 
  • how behaviour emerges during development and is shaped by the way we communicate; 
  • how evolution has shaped behaviour and can help us understand it; 
  • new approaches to understanding the biological bases of complex behaviours, including how hormonal mechanisms moderate human cognition, and how sensory signals are moderated by cognitive signals in rodent brains. 

In cognitive and decision science our work has provided international leadership in the integration of large scale behavioural and cognitive neuroscience measurements, including:

  • how consumers learn to decide among choices; 
  • how biases inform the decisions we make; 
  • how we develop an understanding of the causal mechanisms that drive individuals and groups; 
  • how we forecast the future. 

The development of large-scale measurements has been accompanied by the development of new computational approaches, which we have supported with a nation-leading GPU cluster (£60K) for machine learning to link brain activity to cognition via cognitive models. 

Our research into language and multimodal communication has moved into a new emphasis on naturalistic scenarios. We have provided new insights into how we provide meaning to words, the cues that are used and how large-scale brain networks work together to support language. 

Our research into sensory science has moved towards understanding more complex behaviours. New collaborations have brought insights into how the brain builds and uses representations of complex, three-dimensional worlds in animals. This area has benefitted from significant investment in new facilities including virtual reality for both human and animal experiments, development of new virtual reality tools, and mobile brain imaging through fNIRS. 

Language and cognition

We undertake research in language and cognition, spanning developmental and neuroscience perspectives on language processing and disorders.

We are developing new capacity in cohort studies, typical and atypical language development, particularly in the area of grammatical behaviour, as well as neuroimaging.

Strategic development plans for the next five years include further investment in neuroscience and dementia research, and implementing large scale trials of interventions to improve communication and mental health in young people and older adults affected by language disorder.


Research in linguistics spans theoretical linguistics and psycholinguistics. The aims of this research are to develop methods to describe the world’s languages, explain how language is produced and comprehended in human communication, how the ability to do this develops typically and atypically in relation to neural underpinnings, and how human language differs from other species’ mediums for communication.

Increasingly theoretical linguistics employs experimental and computational methods and we are strengthening skills in these areas. A key aim is to exploit corpus data, modelling and other computational methods in the service of theory development.