Every year we ask our new intake of undergraduate students, to get into small groups and choose a researcher they want to meet.
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The ability to speak and understand a language is unique to the human species. Linguists are interested in understanding the cognitive abilities that allow humans but not members of other species to learn languages and to communicate with them.
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We use fruit flies to study the mechanical senses, e.g. touch and hearing, but also the lesser known somatosensory system, which e.g. provides information on forces acting on an organism’s limbs: “How strong is my grip (will the glass break?)”.
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“How does our brain transform our thoughts into actions?” An unresolved question that has bedazzled neuroscientists ever since Charles Sherrington provided the first detailed “motor maps” of the primate motor cortex.
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My work seeks to understand the mechanisms underlying how exposure to risk factors for mental illness during childhood and adolescence alters brain and cognitive function to give to mental illnesses, so the new treatment and preventative interventions can be developed.
Chris Brewin is Professor of Clinical Psychology and a practising cognitive-behaviour therapist with particular interest in depression and posttraumatic stress disorder. Both disorders are characterised by high levels of self-criticism and there is a lot of recent interest in compassion-focussed therapy designed to reduce self-criticism by helping people to be more compassionate with themselves. Recently he has collaborated with Professor Mel Slater in the UCL Computer Science department to develop a virtual reality intervention to increase self-compassion, using a technique called ‘embodiment’.
Most of my research is focused on evaluating whether or not certain kinds of treatments help adolescents with their problems. As part of a research team, we have carried out a very large U.K evaluation of a treatment for teenagers who show antisocial behaviour and break the law. This form of help is called Multi-systemic therapy (MST). I have also developed a scale known as the antisocial beliefs and attitudes scale. A final area that I am interested in is the impact of materialistic values on young people’s sense of themselves.
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We aim to understand how populations of neurons in cortex process sensory information, and how they integrate it with information from within the brain to guide perception and action. We investigate these questions with a combination of experiment and computational analysis.
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We research how listeners use sounds in order to learn about, and interact with their surroundings. Our work is based on behavioural methods (psychophysics), eye tracking and functional brain imaging (MEG, EEG and fMRI).
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My research relates to understanding the disease mechanisms of Parkinson's disease. We still don't know the cause of Parkinson's in most patients, however in the brains of all patients there are characteristic protein aggregates and I'm studying how these protein aggregates spread in the brains of patients as the disease progresses.
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My research investigates the positive and negative impacts of our mobile devices on our ability to get our work done and to successfully manage our work-life balance.
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Ever wondered why Glaswegians are hard to understand, why call centres are based in Inverness or why Saturday night TV is dominated by Geordies? My research focuses on variation in speech, addressing how listeners are able to understand speech despite variation, and how and why speakers adapt their own speech when interacting with others.
My main interest is in trying to understand the driving forces behind child development, particularly in relation to children’s emotional development. I’m fascinated by the interplay that seems to happen between genetic factors and the social environment – particularly experiences in early caregiving relationships.
My primary research interests are in the development of improved interventions for the treatment of personality disorder. My current research focusses on adaptations of Dialectical Behavioural Therapy and Cognitive Behaivoural Therapy for a wider range of presentations and comorbidity with personality disorder.
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My research work has largely focused on the integration of psychodynamic theoretical and clinical work with empirical research strategies in the areas of early emotional development and psychosocial treatment research, engaging specifically with severe personality pathology. I co-developed mentalization-based treatment, an innovative research-based dynamic therapeutic approach. I am also engaged in a major collaborative programme exploring developmental psychopathology from an attachment-mentalization perspective.
My lab makes and studies mouse models of human neurodegenerative diseases. We integrate closely with colleagues from many disciplines including clinical neurology to try to understand the mechanisms involved in the death of specific neurons.
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Research in my lab examines visual perception: the way we see the world. We do so using mostly behavioural techniques, known as “psychophysics”. One focus is visual crowding: in your peripheral vision, objects can be highly visible in isolation but become extremely difficult to identify when surrounded by clutter.
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I am interested in people’s judgments that feed into decision making. For example, people might decide whether or not to visit the doctor based on their estimate of the likelihood they have a disease. What affects that estimate? How do people incorporate information from different sources in these estimates?
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My research investigates social cognition, that is, our ability to think about the minds of others. I study the boundary conditions of this phenomenon, such as when we extend social cognition to things that do not have minds (anthropomorphism) and when we withhold it from people (dehumanisation). I address legal, economic, and medical decision-making related to this phenomenon, blending philosophy, evolutionary anthropology, developmental, cognitive and social psychology with neuroscience to explore the brain correlates of this most human ability.
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Infants acquire speech through social interactions with their caregivers. If computers are to use speech as effectively as humans, then they too need to learn how to use speech to communicate though social interactions...
Our team uses psychophysiological measurements to look at the role of ‘maladaptive learning and memory’ in addictions and anxiety disorders. Both of these types of disorder involve unhelpful patterns of behaviour which have been learned through, for example, classical conditioning. It turns out that it might be possible to reverse these unhelpful behaviours by retraining people to form more adaptive associations.
Mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, involve problems in the way memory functions. We use techniques including brain imaging, electrophysiology and virtual reality to investigate memory processes in healthy and unwell people. By understanding how these processes fail, we aim to find new ways to improve mental health.
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Lasting language dysfunction is among the most feared and disabling symptoms complicating stroke, yet there is little in the way of an evidence base for its treatment. My work is split between two common post-stroke syndromes: generalized language dysfunction (aphasia) and isolated reading dysfunction (alexia).
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People who have experienced stressors in their life are more likely to develop depression. These stressors include bullying, earthquakes, deployment to war and bereavement. I am interested why individuals vary so much in how they respond to stressors...
My work aims to improve the recognition of autism, and to develop new interventions to help autistic people. I have a particular research interest in improving the identification and care of females on the autism spectrum, who are currently at high risk of going unnoticed and unhelped by clinical and educational services.
Mairead Mac Sweeney
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I explore how the brain processes language in people who are born profoundly deaf. My research focuses on sign language, speechreading and reading of written English. Exploring the brains of adults who have had very different...
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I co-direct the Developmental Risk and Resilience Unit at UCL. Our research focuses on early adversity and behavioural problems in childhood. My research uses brain imaging and psychological approaches to investigate the mechanisms associated with developmental adversity and resilience.
My research interests include: health services research, including trials of complex interventions such as crisis intervention teams and implementation studies of health service policy initiatives; psychological treatment, in particular treatments for depression and the competences required to deliver effective interventions for all psychological treatments and disorders; systematic reviews in mental health and their use in clinical guidelines; clinical guideline development and implementation in mental health.
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What conditions make learning most effective and how can we help people maximise their learning? My research in memory and metacognition applies principles from cognitive psychology to learning situations from traditional classrooms to smartphone apps.
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The research efforts of the Molecular NeuroPathobiology Laboratory are focused on proving the central hypothesis that the impairment of the selectivity and/or the efficiency of long-range communication in neurons caused by defects in vesicular traffic constitutes a major pathogenic mechanism in neurodegenerative disorders. Our laboratory has played a major role in the field by defining the mechanism responsible for the uptake of neurotrophins, their receptors and virulence factors, such as tetanus toxin, and its coupling with the axonal retrograde transport pathway. Furthermore, we have demonstrated the essential role of cytoplasmic dynein in this process and the functional link between mutations in this molecular motor and pathologies of motor and sensory neurons.
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I am interested in our voices and our brains - why we sound the way we do, how our brains decode speech, how we express and perceive emotion in the voice. As part of this research I am looking at human laughter, and the causal role it can play in interactions.
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My project has changed from what I talk about in the video. I now work with pluripotent stem cells and generating parts of the eye from these stem cells. Our lab has been successful in transplanting pieces of ocular tissue made from stem cells into patients.
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My research concerns how humans mentally represent and learn knowledge about the world and how they communicate about this. We study these questions looking at children, adults and patients and using methods such as recording reaction times in behavioural experiments and imaging of the neural networks involved.
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My research focuses on the meaning of words but also the additional non-verbal cues like gestures, facial expressions, etc and how we express them and understand them. My research uses a combination of psycholinguistic experiments, computational modelling, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).
My laboratory combines in vivo and in vitro neurophysiology in order to address questions concerning the regulation of cortical excitability, mechanisms underlying epileptogenesis (the development of epilepsy) and the treatment and pathology of prolonged seizures (status epilepticus). The aims of the laboratory are to improve the treatment of epilepsy and to identify new strategies for epilepsy treatment.
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I work with patients to understand Huntington's Disease and develop new ways of tracking its progression (biomarkers). We can now measure the concentration of mutant huntingtin protein, the cause of HD, in cerebrospinal fluid. We’ll be using this to help test the first ever 'gene silencing' treatment for HD, starting summer 2015.
Pain is not just a physical event, or a sensation: it is also an emotional event – if it were not unpleasant and aversive, it would not be pain. It is defined as both a sensory and emotional experience, without any requirement for a detectable disease or lesion, since much pain is produced by changes in the central and peripheral nervous system.
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I study the communication of deaf people as a model for understanding language, cognition, and the brain. My research includes studies of spoken and signed language acquisition, linguistic and sociolinguistic research on sign languages, functional imaging of signed and spoken language processing by deaf and hearing people, and developmental and acquired sign language impairments.