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EASTBIO Testing computational principles of multisensory integration in Synaesthesia

   School of Psychology

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  Dr T Otto, Dr I Jentzsch  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The use of signals from different senses is often beneficial to an organism. A prominent example is the speed-up of responses to two or more redundant signals relative to the unisensory components, which is known as redundant signals effect (RSE). A key question in multisensory research is to understand the computational principles that underlie an efficient combination of sensory evidence to enable behavioural benefits. In a long-standing debate, two main processing architectures have been proposed. Firstly, a parallel architecture assumes that redundant signals are processed separately and that a behavioural response can be triggered by the faster of the two processes to conclude. Consequently, sensory evidence for signals in different modalities is here in fact not integrated, the observed behavioural benefit occurs due to statistical facilitation. Secondly, an integration architecture assumes that sensory evidence for two signals is combined in a single perceptual decision process. Given that two signals together provide more evidence than either of the components, the observed behavioural benefit here arises due to “true” integration. The question which architecture underlies multisensory benefits is to date still unresolved.

In this project, we propose to study multisensory processing using behavioural testing combined with a computational modelling approach. As a key component, the project will not only study multisensory processing in a normal population but also in individuals exhibiting synaesthetic experiences. Synaesthesia is a form of perception in which stimulation in one sense (the inducer) can trigger a percept in another modality (the concurrent). For example, the presentation of a specific tone in audition can trigger the percept of a specific colour in vision. Synaesthesia therefore points to a “true” mixing of the senses. We will use these pairings to test multisensory processing for example in conditions with congruent redundant signals (i.e., stimuli that match the synaesthetic experience) and with incongruent redundant signals (i.e., stimuli that do not match the synaesthetic experience). We argue that the comparison of behavioural benefits with congruent vs. incongruent stimulation will provide a unique opportunity to investigate and compare models with different multisensory processing architectures.

Research Training: The PhD project is suitable for students in Neurosciences and related disciplines (including Psychology, Biology, Physics, and Computer Sciences). The successful candidate will have research interests in human sensory processes, perceptual decision making, and Synaesthesia. Prior experience in computational modelling is a plus but is not a requirement, as corresponding research training will be provided.


Application instructions can be found on the EASTBIO website-

1)     Download and complete the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion survey.

2)     Download and complete the EASTBIO Application Form.

3)     Submit an application to St Andrews University through the Online Application Portal

Your online application must include the following documents:

-         Completed EASTBIO application form

-         2 References (to be completed on the EASTBIO Reference Form, also found on the EASTBIO website)

-         Academic Qualifications

-         English Language Qualification (if applicable)

Unfortunately due to workload constraints, we cannot consider incomplete applications. Please make sure your application is complete by 27th November 2023


Queries on the project can be directed to the project supervisor.

Queries on the application process can be directed to Rachel Horn at [Email Address Removed]

UKRI eligibility guidance: Terms and Conditions: View Website International/EU: View Website 

Biological Sciences (4) Medicine (26) Psychology (31)

Funding Notes

This 4 year PhD project is part of a competition funded by EASTBIO BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership.
This opportunity is open to UK and International students and provides funding to cover stipend at UKRI standard rate and UK level tuition fees. The University of St Andrews will cover the Home-International fee difference.

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