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Constructing a stable world: how the brain uses gaze direction to disambiguate sensory information

When objects move in the real world, they create a wave of activity across the retina representing that movement. But the same effect could be achieved by moving our eyes across a static object. The brain hardly ever misinterprets these signals and is capable of producing a stable representation of the world around us. How does it achieve this? Studies suggest that signals that indicate the position of the eyes in the head are critically important in vision, allowing us to disambiguate the information inherent in the retinal image. But where are these signals found in the brain and how are they utilized? This project will explore the representation of eye-position (or gaze direction) in the human brain using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). A number of parietal and occipital brain areas have been implicated, and given the existence of multiple visual maps within these brain areas, this project will explore whether eye-position also exhibits some topographic organisation. Furthermore, in order to establish a more causal role that these eye-position signals may play in generating stable percepts of the world, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) will be utilised to temporarily disrupt activity in these areas and determine what effect they have on perception.

How to apply

If you are interested in applying for the above PhD topic please follow the steps below:

  1. Contact the supervisor by email or phone to discuss your interest and find out if you would be suitable. Supervisor details can be found on this topic page. The supervisor will guide you in developing the topic-specific research proposal, which will form part of your application.
  2. Click on the 'Apply here' button on this page and you will be taken to the relevant PhD course page, where you can apply using an online application.
  3. Complete the online application indicating your selected supervisor and include the research proposal for the topic you have selected.

Good luck!

This is a self funded topic

Brunel offers a number of funding options to research students that help cover the cost of their tuition fees, contribute to living expenses or both. See more information here: The UK Government is also offering Doctoral Student Loans for eligible students, and there is some funding available through the Research Councils. Many of our international students benefit from funding provided by their governments or employers. Brunel alumni enjoy tuition fee discounts of 15%.

Meet the Supervisor(s)

Adrian Williams - My main research interests relate to vision and visual perception, but I have a broader interest in sensory perception more generally. I was originally trained in the areas of statistics and computing before developing an interest in machine learning and artificial neural networks. From there, I moved to 'real' neural networks, and completed my PhD in Neuroscience at the Institute of Ophthalmology, University College London. After a period of nearly five years as a postdoc at the Psychology Department at Royal Holloway, University of London, I joined the Centre for Cognition and Neuroimaging at Brunel University London as a lecturer.