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Illustration of brain synapses

Systems and computational neuroscience

The human brain contains 87 billion neurons, and every one of these communicates by using spikes. Our researchers work to understand how these spikes underpin everything we do – from seeing, hearing and moving to planning and making decisions.

Systems neuroscience pushes the boundaries of modern technology to record spikes from as many neurons at once as possible during sensation and behaviour.

Computational neuroscience creates theories and models to understand this neural activity data.

We bring these disciplines together to solve a fundamental mystery: how does the brain work?

Our research ranges from how the brain uses the amount of available light to set circadian rhythms; to the fundamentals of how cortex represents and uses information gathered from the senses; to leading theories for how the brain generates movement.

Areas of research activity

  • Early visual systems
  • Neural control of circadian rhythms
  • Sensory coding
  • Action selection and decision making
  • Neural coding theories
  • The role of the hippocampus in memory and Alzheimer's disease
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Major projects

Vision beyond rods and cones

An ERC Proof of Concept award, led by Professor Robert Lucas, is exploring how visual display technology could be updated to take advantage of his recent discovery that a new photoreceptor (melanopsin) contributes to vision.

Networks of neural dynamics

Dr Mark Humphries has been awarded a seven year MRC Senior non-Clinical Fellowship to develop algorithms for analysing multi-neuron recording data. He will apply them to research problems in the areas of prefrontal cortex, basal ganglia and locomotion.

Highlight publications

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Featured researchers

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Case study

Redesigning artificial lights to suit our biological needs

Disruption of the body clock and sleep-wake cycle, caused by exposure to unnatural light, can have a profound influence on health and wellbeing.

Neuroscientists at the University, led by Professor Rob Lucas, discovered a previously unknown light receptor responsible for a range of important subconscious responses. Their research established ways of predicting light's effect on these receptors.

Rob is now working with lighting manufacturers to produce improved artificial lights, as well as with policymakers to produce international standards for architectural lighting, which will be applied to a wide range of domestic, public and industrial settings.

Read more

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Dr Mark Humphries
Tel: +44 (0)161 306 3267