We are delighted to introduce Bryan Paton, Research Fellow. Bryan is a neuroscientist with a deep interest in the function and structure of the brain. His academic background is in engineering, psychology and philosophy.
As a neuroscientist I have a deep interest in the function and structure of the brain. Much of my work is focused around two core areas, computational models of brain function and connectivity and the development of the tools required to do the actual neuroscience. At MBI where I work, I am able to pursue both of these areas, often jointly. As an example I am helping to lead the establishment of new neuroimaging facilities at MBI combining the simultaneous use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). fMRI is used to probe the function or dynamical nature of the brain, TMS on the other hand is used to focally modify or modulate areas of the brain using a pulsed magnetic field. These two technologies are in many ways incompatible, the challenge is in figuring out ways to combine the two safely and in such a way as to get the most from both approaches. After these new facilities are established I intend on using them to develop a map of how the brain responds to external stimulation, an effective connectome. The effective connectome will then factor into the computational models I develop of how the brain functions.
I also have a diverse academic background coming from a mixture of computer engineering, psychology, and philosophy and the joy is in being able to apply each of these areas in different ways. My PhD studies were in Cognitive Neuroscience and Philosophy. I examined how different sensory systems respond under diverse conditions in the context of a global theory of brain function. The theory is based on the concept of predictive coding. Predictive coding posits the novel idea that the brain acts just like a scientist, positing theories of how the world works and iteratively testing those theories against data it collects about the world (sensory input). Thinking of the brain as a theory or hypothesis tester turns many of the traditional ideas about how the brain works on their heads (no pun intended).
Looking ahead, I want to continue my research in further applied ways. I have already worked on a number of projects looking at how sensory systems and social functioning might be impaired or compromised in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) patients. My current work builds on this by combining computational models and fMRI to show how these impairments in ASD might be a reasonable response to a complex and volatile world.