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Self-organisation as a theory of brain development

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  • Full or part time
    Dr SP Wilson
    Dr JV Stone
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Self-organisation is a general theory of how function is assigned to cortical microcircuits. The theory predicts that a balance between cooperative and competitive interactions in local cortical circuits, consolidated by Hebbian learning, results in similar inputs being represented by nearby neurons. Simulations of cortical self-organisation have mainly concerned vision, where ’similar inputs’ may translate to ’pixels at similar retinal locations’ or ’edges of similar orientation’. My previous work has extended the approach for touch, showing that ’similar inputs’ can, for example, translate to ’body parts often touching’. In principle, self-organising models can generate predictions about the functional organisation assigned to any cortical area. In practice, the validity of these models is limited by the accuracy with which model inputs reflect natural developmental experiences. Particularly for ’higher-order’ cortical areas that combine information from multiple sources, i.e., multisensory or sensorimotor areas, natural interactions between these sources are difficult to synthesize. The project aims to address this bottleneck, by exploiting natural human and animal behaviours to generate inputs for models of map formation. This should help improve our understanding of the developmental mechanisms that underlie disorders of multisensory and sensorimotor integration.

Reading:
- Wilson SP, Bednar JA (2015) What, if anything, are topological maps for? Developmental Neurobiology, 75(6), 667-681
- Bednar JA, Wilson SP (2015) Cortical Maps, The Neuroscientist (in press). doi:10.1177/1073858415597645

Funding Notes

This is one of many projects in competition for the current funding opportunities available within the Department of Psychology. Please see here for full details: http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/psychology/prospectivepg/funding
Overseas students are welcome to apply for funding but must be able to demonstrate that they can fund the difference in the tuition fees.
Requirements: We ask for a minimum of a first class or high upper second-class undergraduate honours degree and a distinction or high merit at Masters level in psychology or a related discipline.

How good is research at University of Sheffield in Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 34.45

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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