I think it's safe to say I've been interested in Neuroscience since I stopped thinking about being a train driver AND a fireman... questions about how we perceive, and interact with, our local environment started early (though I'd never heard of peri-personal space!), and continue now. However, as a prudent Scot I chose to study Pharmacy, reasoning that even if I was good enough to study at a higher level, I'd still always have a job!
After final Pharmacy training, I studied for a PhD in the neural control of.... the Fallopian Tube. It's still the most complex smooth muscle structure in the Human body (honest, go look!) but I felt a shift to more neural stuff was required, and so I went to the Institute of Ophthalmology, to study with Professor Adam Sillito, (a collaboration that continues even now). Here I learned and studied about the visual pathways of the mammalian brain, a sound training in neuro- and electrophysiology that is the basis of my work even now. A 3 year period at Caltech with Professor Richard Anderson led to my position here at Manchester.
I think it's safe to say I've been interested in Neuroscience since I stopped
thinking about being a train driver AND a fireman...
The neural architecture and function of the mammalian visual system remains a driving model for all our understanding of brain function. We are visual animals, using vision as our basic and fundamentally most important sense, at least at a cognitive level. My current interests lie in how the brain structures involved in the processes of vision interact with one another at a neuronal level - how the patterns of activity in different parts of these pathways contribute to one another, with particular interest in feedback processes - how "higher" brain areas contribute to the apparent responses of "lower" brain regions. Let me give you just one example - the neural output from your eye (the retina) is sent to a first processing area, in the thalamus (which sits between the eye and your cerebral cortex, the bit that makes us, well, human!). However, there is MUCH more input to this thalamus FROM the cerebral cortex than from the retina - think of it this way - what you see (using your eye, the retina) is more what you THINK you see (because there is SO much more information moving backward form the cortex to the thalamus). We still don't know quite what this massive stream of information is doing - and the process of feedback seems to operate at many levels within the cerebral cortex also - it's THE common "architecture" in brain!