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The neurocognitive mechanisms of conscious access in object recognition.

   School of Psychology

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  Dr I Charest  Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham is looking for a bright and motivated PhD student to join the Charest Laboratory ( The PhD position to be filled is part of a project recently funded by a European Research Council Starting Grant entitled: "Spatio-Temporal Attention and Representation Tracking: the precise neural architecture of conscious object perception" (START).

The Project:
START is an ambitious programme of work that will make use of cutting-edge multivariate pattern analyses (MVPA) techniques to reveal the brain mechanisms that are critical for consciously perceiving visual objects in tasks that manipulate conscious access to visual information. The ability to consciously recognise faces, objects, or sounds is crucial for adaptive behaviour and survival. Yet, how our conscious experience of the world emerges in our brain remains unknown. The overall aim of the START programme is to fill an important gap in our understanding of consciousness by elucidating the neural underpinnings of conscious access. How does the brain select relevant information among distractors, and keep this information in mind? Why does our ability to consciously recognise salient objects sometimes fail under pressure and exhibit variability across days and individuals? START will try to address these important questions by precisely tracking where in the brain and when in time the representations critical for conscious access are established, by using novel approaches of Representational Similarity Analyses which combines the strengths of EEG, fMRI, and Deep Convolutional Neuronal Networks. This project will provide new insights on the precise spatio-temporal dynamics of conscious access, the mechanisms governing it, and the idiosyncratic subtleties behind the meanderings of consciousness.

The candidate:
The successful candidate will have (or be in the process of obtaining) a Masters degree in cognitive neuroscience or a related field. Previous experience with psychophysical tasks that manipulate conscious access in vision is desirable. Given the nature of the project, good understanding of and experience with fMRI, EEG/MEG and data analysis is desirable. Experience in using matlab or python (and Psychtoolbox or PsychoPy) is a requirement. The successful applicant will have experience with multivariate pattern analyses (Representational Similarity Analysis, Fisher linear discriminants, etc) of neuroimaging data. This post will require designing experiments, collecting and analysing data associated with the project, preparing manuscripts for publication, presenting results at national and international conferences and the possible supervision of research assistants and students.

The School:
The School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham ( is one of the largest and most successful in the UK, currently ranked in the top 5 Schools in the country (REF 2014). The School is soon to move to new accommodation in the form of a fully refurbished, purpose-designed space and a new-build Centre for Human Brain Health that will house our new MRI, MEG, EEG, NIRS, sleep lab, and the recently appointed Chair in Translational Neuroscience. The University of Birmingham is an equal opportunities employer. The School of Psychology has a Bronze Athena SWAN award and strives to maintain a flexible and supportive environment that enables its staff to flourish.

For informal enquiries about the project please contact Dr. Ian Charest ([Email Address Removed]). Formal applications must be made via the postgraduate admissions system in the School of Psychology. For more information on how to apply, visit:

Applicants are encouraged to attach to their application a cover letter detailing the relevance of their previous experience, their interest in the position’s topic, and why they think that they are the candidate we are looking for. In addition, applicants are encouraged to attach to their application a short and original project proposal (500 words).

Funding Notes

The position is funded by a European Research Council Starting Grant.


Unique semantic space in the brain of each beholder predicts perceived similarity.
Charest I, Kievit R A, Schmitz T W S, Deca D, & Kriegeskorte N. (2014) PNAS

Resolving human object recognition in space and time.
Cichy, R. M., Pantazis, D. & Oliva, A. (2014) Nat. Neurosci.

Representational geometry: integrating cognition, computation, and the brain.
Kriegeskorte, N., & Kievit R A. (2013) Trends Cogn. Sci.

Inverse MDS: inferring dissimilarity structure from multiple item arrangements.
Kriegeskorte, N., Mur, M. (2012) Frontiers in Psychology

Human object-similarity judgments reflect and transcend the primate-IT object representation.
Mur, M. , Meys, M., Boudurka, J., Goebel, R., Bandetti, P.A., Kriegeskorte, N. (2013) Frontiers in Perception Science, 4:128

Decoding Rich Spatial Information with High Temporal Resolution.
Stokes M, Wolff, M J & Spaak, E. (2015) Trends Cogn. Sci.

Emerging object representations in the visual system predict reaction times for categorization.
Ritchie, J B, Tovar, D A, & Carlson, T A. (2015) PLoS Comp. Biol.

Reaction time for object categorization is predicted by representational distance.
Carlson, T A, Ritchie, J B, Kriegeskorte, N, Durvasula, S, & Ma J. (2014) J. Cogn. Neuro

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