Statutory Professor in Translational Cognitive Neuroscience
Head of Department of Experimental Psychology
Director of Oxford Centre of Human Brain Activity (Psychiatry)
Chair of Oxford Neuroscience Committee
Department of Psychiatry
Department of Experimental Psychology
Tell us a bit about your role
I got to where I am through curiosity, fortune, and many inspiring and generous people. Oh, yes. And some considerable elbow grease.
What do I do?
In my science: I investigate how the brain anticipates and selects relevant information from the environment and from memories to guide behaviour.
As a group leader: I supervise and mentor students and researchers to do meaningful science to the highest standards, and to make sure they actively consider their own values, interests, strengths, and work-life balance settings in order to lead a rewarding and full life.
In my scientific and academic leadership roles I strive to bring people and perspectives together for the common betterment. I am especially committed to realising the tremendous potential of neuroscience and psychology to benefit society, for example in mental and physical health, education, industry, and policy.
What is the most meaningful aspect of your work?
Learning to view problems from new perspectives and innovating ways to solve them – be these scientific problems or challenges within a departmental or institutional context.
Can you tell us about something you've done, contributed to that you're most proud of?
As a scientist, I am most proud of my lab’s discoveries that have changed standard paradigms in our field. Examples include: altering the conventional pieces of the language network in the human brain; demonstrating how our brain learns and uses temporal relations to guide perception, action, and memory; and recasting memories as flexible sources of information that can be shaped by attention as well as guide what we perceive.
As a Head of Department, I am most pleased for our staying power and ability to thrive in the face of multiple major disruptions, such as the sudden closure of our building. The events still leave me astonished and grateful for the resilience, energy, loyalty, and commitment of all members of the department – professional support staff, faculty, researchers, and students alike.
What changes would you most like to see in the Medical Sciences in the next 100 years?
I believe Oxford can lead the way in reintegrating all those important pieces of human health that have become scattered along the various subdisciplines in medicine, in order to advance the understanding of the whole person, acknowledging the interplay between the various systems of physical and mental health. Building bridges between mental and physical health is a top priority in this regard. We can go even further and incorporate, with rigorous empirical and computational approaches, other social and environmental factors too.