In brain and mind discovery, more than 100 investigators from across the university work together, with expertise ranging across biomedical research, cognitive, social, and developmental psychology, neural sciences, visual psychophysics, social sciences, human factors, biology, rehabilitation sciences, robotics, music, literature, film, and computational neuroscience.
The Derriford Research Facility, together with the biomedical laboratories in the John Bull Building, host a number of highly successful neuroscience discovery research groups with strong track record. The research teams are an interdisciplinary mix from the School of Medicine and the School of Biomedical Science.
The Biomedical Research Group leads a strong neuroscience theme that encompasses a broad spectrum of neurology research. Much of their focus is disease-orientated (see 'Brain and mind translation'), and the understanding of pathological processes is supported by core investigation of fundamental mechanisms, such as cell death and regeneration.
Core topics include:
- Neural stem cell regulation and development (Claudia Barros)
- Network formation in the CNS (Torsten Bossing)
- Guidance of regenerating axons across peripheral nerve gaps (Xinpeng Dun)
- White matter connectivity (Robert Fern)
- The molecular basis of neuron-glia communication (Konstantin Glebov)
- Autophagy regulation (Shouqing Luo)
- Nervous system development (David Parkinson).
Cognitive neuroscience and neuroimaging
BRIC provides a hub for interdisciplinary brain research, combining human brain imaging (including 3T fMRI) with cutting-edge neuroscience to support multi-modal human brain research.
Our strengths here include:
- Neuronal networks (Stephen Hall)
- Cognitive neuropsychology ( Alastair Smith )
- The neuroscience of pain (Sam Hughes)
- Neurolinguistics (Jeremy Goslin)
- Visual and cognitive neuroscience (Giorgio Ganis)
- Social and computational neuroscience (Elsa Fouragnan)
- Perceptual neuroscience (Matt Roser)
- Computational modelling (Andy Wills)
- Vestibular systems and motor control (Jonathan Marsden, Krithika Anil)
- Decision making neuroscience (Nadege Bault).
Fundamental research in the School of Psychology is a long-standing strength at Plymouth. Our scientists aim to understand the mechanisms of thought, from basic associative and cognitive processes, through language and communication, to social interaction and group behaviour. They are interested in all stages of life, from infancy to old age, and examine typical and atypical function.
Particular areas of interest in cognition are the study of:
- Learning and memory (Hollins, Mitchell, Berry, Jones, Verde, Wills)
- Spatial navigation (Smith)
- Reasoning (Walsh)
- Face perception and recognition (Hollins, Longmore, Mileva)
- Decision making (Woike)
- The representation of self (Golubickis)
- Language acquisition (Abu-Zhaya, Floccia).
Other areas of study include:
- The mechanisms underlying prejudice (Charlesford)
- Humour and positive psychology (Heintz)
- Cross-cultural differences in cognition (Kanngiesser).
A variety of methods are used to study these topics, including cognitive and social experimentation with human adults, immersive Virtual Reality, eye-tracking, mathematical modelling, and neuroimaging. Developmental studies also play a large role in our activities, and the BabyLab is an internationally renowned centre for research into childhood development.
Eye and Vision research
Researchers in optometry, in the School of Health Professions, form the Eye and Vision Reseach Group, and lead much of the University’s research into the human visual system.
Scientists in the Ocular Biomechanics Research Laboratory (H. Buckhurst, P. Buckhurst, Oehring, Papadatou) investigate the eye as a living biomechanical structure in order to understand not only how the eye performs some of its basic functions, but also as a pathway to characterise how sight-threatening conditions manifest. The core team is composed of clinicians with a specific research interest in examining the cornea and sclera in vivo and ex vivo with modern imaging (including optical coherent tomography and MRI) and modelling techniques.
The Basic and Applied Visual Psychophysics Group utilise psychophysical methods, such as measuring detection/discrimination thresholds, adaption, and visual search, to study visual perception across a variety of functions. The research interests of this lab range from basic research to understand motion (Garcia Suarez, Joshi), shape and face perception (Schmidtmann), and peripheral vision (Artes).
Faculty of Health researchers also collaborate in brain and mind research with colleagues in other Faculties.
The Centre for Robotics and Neural Systems (CRNS) draws upon expertise from the fields of computer science, cognitive robotics and neural computation to enhance knowledge transfer between brain and computational sciences. This includes Computational Neuroscience (Wennekers), Cognitive Robotics (Gianni) and Computational Modelling (Howard).
The School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics is home to an applied research team in the field of Neural Signal Processing (Ifeachor, Jammeh). This group work closely with researchers at Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust to identify biomarkers in Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders from Neuroimaging and routine health data.
In the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, the Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research is home to the RadioMe and OptiMuscle research projects, linking music technology with medical engineering (Miranda, Kirke, Venkatesh, Moffat).
A Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) is a piece of equipment that enables users to control systems with their mind. It reads signals from the brain and harnesses them for communicating with computers, or controlling mechanical devices, such as a robotic arm, a musical instrument or a wheelchair.
The University of Plymouth is well-known for the innovative research on developing BCI for palliative care through music. The Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research developed BCIs that enabled severely motor-impaired persons to play music and communicate emotions to each other (Miranda, Kirke, Venkatesh),
The team is now working with the University’s Brain Research & Imaging Centre (Miranda, Venkatesh, Hall), and in partnership with IBM Q and Kipu Quantum, to leverage Quantum Computing technology to develop BCIs. The team is developing quantum computing models of cognition.